The Royal Ballet is currently streaming two of the most beautiful abstract works created by British choreographers during the last century – Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto and Frederick Ashton’s Symphonic Variations. These two works represent pure classical ballet at its absolute best – each defined by exquisite choreography and each set to a score not necessarily written for ballet, yet supremely appropriate.
Kenneth MacMillan choreographed Concerto in 1966 – one of the first works he created for Deutsche Opera Ballet as director of ballet at the Berlin Opera House. He set this work against a simple backdrop, complementing the bright, yet warm, shades of the costumes designed by Jürgen Rose.
For the score, MacMillan selected the Shostakovich Second Piano Concerto No 2 in F which the composer had written in 1957 for his son Maxim’s 19th birthday. It’s a work of contrasts – an almost languorous andante, preceded and followed by an allegro movement. MacMillan made the most of these contrasts, with a sparkling opening movement, followed by a lyrical pas de deux, and ending with an energetic finale. Technically and visually brilliant, it’s one of MacMillan’s most celebrated works.
This recording was filmed in 2019, with Royal Ballet Principals Yasmine Naghdi partnered by Ryoichi Hirano, and Royal Ballet First Soloists Anna Rose O’Sullivan, James Hay and Mayara Magri. Pavel Sorokin conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Concert Master is Vasko Vassilev, and lighting design is by John B Read.
Concerto is available to stream on-demand until 25th April. Details can be found on the Royal Ballet website.
Symphonic Variations was the first ballet created by Frederick Ashton on his return from active service in the RAF during the Second World War, and it was one of the Company’s first works for the Main Stage of the Royal Opera House. The ballet – heralded as one of Ashton’s finest – was premiered on 24th April, 1946, and this online screening has been timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of that occasion.
With elegant designs by Sophie Fedorovitch, this exquisite ballet was set to César Franck’s 1885 Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra, and features just six dancers. On stage for the duration of the ballet, they perform a series of sextets, quartets, duets, and solos, illustrating the affinity between Ashton’s sublime choreography and the almost dreamlike quality of Franck’s work.
This performance, recorded at the Royal Opera House in 2017, features Marianela Nuñez, Yasmine Naghdi, Yuhui Choe, Vadim Muntagirov, James Hay and Tristan Dyer. Emmanuel Plasson conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, the pianist is Paul Stobart and Concert Master is Vasko Vassilev. Lighting is by John B Read.
Symphonic Variations is available to stream on-demand until 2 May 2021. Further details are available on the Royal Opera House website.
Information sourced from:
Royal Ballet programme notes