Friday, March 23, 2007

Balanchine on Boulez, via Kirstein

For someone (rather, anyone) who hates Boulez's music - the numbers are probably in the millions.

I had previously mentioned Robert Garis's second-hand story about Violette Verdy's dinner party to introduce Boulez and Balanchine. Lincoln Kirstein remembers the same episode, and writes of it in Thirty Years: Lincoln Kirstein's the New York City Ballet (1978):

Pierre Boulez, the leading French composer and conductor of his day, served a not entirely happy series of seasons as musical director of the New York Philharmonic Society. We never saw him in our theater. Balanchine knew his discs and went to Fisher Hall to hear him conduct his personal compositions. A principal dancer in our company, a friend of both Boulez and Balanchine, urged that they meet. Balanchine asked why: “Because both our names start with B?” “No, no; because one is a great conductor-composer; the other a great etc. etc.” They met. The next morning I asked our great etc. etc. what the evening was like. “Marvelous; you know her mother is a very great cook: her quiche….” “Yes, but what about Boulez?” “Ah,” said Balanchine, “he’s a physicist and I’m a gardener.”

More random and fun comments from Kirstein:

"[Balanchine] has been described as a kind of Ivan the Terrible of ballet; an article in the Village Voice told the sad tale of a lady who claimed to have been destroyed in her psyche by exposure to his ruthless, inhuman schematization in the corps de ballet. She was driven to marriage, babies, and kitchen, and not a minute too soon."

"…alternatives to classic ballet usually invoke 'self-expression' as salvation, and…the 'self' of most aspirants is dubious as to both maturity and information…"

"Commercial TV is a parasitic infection in which mendacity competes with irrelevance. 'Educational' side effects may offer some palliation; war has always improved the practice of surgery."

Lincoln Kirstein will get his own post one day; it is a shame that no biography of this fascinating man and major supporter of 20th century art exists.

1 comment:

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

“Ah,” said Balanchine, “he’s a physicist and I’m a gardener.”

That is what happens when ideology gets in the way of art. Very well said.

"She was driven to marriage, babies, and kitchen, and not a minute too soon."

That's brutal honesty if I've ever heard it. Hopefully, I never hear that about anything I do. (Though I still have those weird dreams about vacuuming in high heels....)