Brahms Handel Variations Analysis Essay

It is not for us to reason why such images occur, why Miss Calegari rapidly turns into a fallen idol - nor why the women are frequently turned upside down or frequently flex their feet when they are lifted. This insistence on the startling movement image is a great deal of what ''Brahms/Handel'' is about, even creating a surfeit for the eye. These quirks could be expected from Miss Tharp, who was invited by Mr. Robbins to the City Ballet here for the first time as a guest choreographer. Yet Mr. Robbins himself has made unorthodox movement images his own signature, even within his most neo-classical ballets. Anyone who would definitively attribute any passage to either choreographer might run into some trouble.

Where they meet on the same ground is in their thirst for exploration of new movement and a visualizing of movement in a new context. And though they have willingly stayed within the recognizable canon of classical ballet, they have produced a work unlike any other in the ballet repertory.

There is a remarkable aspect to ''Brahms/Handel.'' It is a ballet built on the onrush of movement - choreographic variation after variation spills onto the stage to match the flow of Brahms's own variations. Speed is not only of the essence, it becomes the breathtaking hallmark of much of the dancing. And here Merrill Ashley, as the other ballerina, and a good portion of the 28-member cast, turn in some astoundingly technical innovative work.

The cast is divided basically into two units, dressed in shades of blue or green by Oscar de la Renta. The women wear short sleeveless dresses, the men are in tights and blouson tops. The colors clash, presumably deliberately so, and are echoed in a coded manner in Jennifer Tipton's lighting of a backdrop, itself framed by a black wave-topped proscenium. When the blue units are on, the backdrop is blue, when the greens come on, it is green. But then the units mesh and both lighting and choreography become more complicated.

Miss Ashley and Ib Andersen lead the work with the blues, supported by Lauren Hauser, Peter Frame, Alexia Hess and Kipling Houston. Three of the greens, Stacy Caddell, Rita Norona, Shawn Stevens, Peter Boal, David Moore and Sean Savoye precede Miss Calegari's grand entrance as the queen of the greens and her ensemble, led by Bart Cook enters even later.

Each principal is served brilliantly in solos - Mr. Andersen in a poetic bouncing but classical variation, jarred slightly by a sinking movement spliced into his exit, Miss Ashley in her virtuosity, Miss Calegari in her elegant handling of unclassical shapes, Mr. Cook as a personification of gallantry.

Despite lip service to the concept of a theme, illustrated in the first blue section, and the recapitulation of movement themes in the ensembles, the accent is on novelty. At its weakest, the result is a frenetic tangle of ensemble activity. There is no logical progression, any section could be omitted; the brilliant sum is greater than the parts.

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Book Description:

Bach to Brahms presents current analytic views by established scholars of the traditional tonal repertoire, with essays on works by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, and Brahms. The fifteen essays are divided into three groups, two of which focus primarily on the interaction of elements of musical design (formal, metric, and tonal organization) and voice leading at multiple levels of structure. The third group of essays focusses on the "motive" from different perspectives. The result is a volume of integrated studies on the music of the common-practice period, a body of music that remains at the core of modern concert and classroom repertoire. Contributors: Eytan Agmon, David Beach, Charles Burkhart, L. Poundie Burstein, Yosef Goldenberg, Timothy Jackson, William Kinderman, Joel Lester, Boyd Pomeroy, John Rink, Frank Samarotto, Lauri Suurpää, Naphtali Wagner, Eric Wen, Channan Willner. David Beach is professor emeritus and former dean of the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. Recent publications include Advanced Schenkerian Analysis, and Analysis of 18th- and 19th-Century Musical Works in the Classical Tradition/ (co-authored with Ryan McClelland). Yosef Goldenberg teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, where he also serves as head librarian. He is the author of Prolongation of Seventh Chords in Tonal Music (Edwin Mellen Press, 2008) and published in leading journals on music theory and on Israeli music.

eISBN: 978-1-58046-877-0

Subjects: Music

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