Spring Festival, Budapest

"I don't dare ask,
Hush - only in a whisper -
You won't Dance anymore for us, Pavlova?"

Poem by Tamás Vásáry, after the lament of H. Monroe

Indeed, Anna Pavlova would sooner have died than had to go on living - after a serious operation - unable to dance. The beauty, expressive force, and spirituality of her dancing and the allure of her artistic personality, however, inspired the sense of vocation of a multitude of dancers and the creative work of choreographers. The dancers of today have high regard for the great generation that created the repertoire. The tradition of classical ballet created by Anna Pavlova is still alive and vibrant today.

In the series of immensely successful piano-ballet evenings (which we have every confidence will continue) of successive Spring Festivals this year's occupies an unusual place: its program was composed by Henriett Tunyogi and Tamás Vásáry in commemoration and honor of Anna Pavlova and her age, setting out from this noble tradition and showcasing a century of ballet. It presented the music that inspired the world renowned ballerina, as well as the music of her age. The evening's dramaturgy embraced dance and music in an uninterrupted arch, and the succession of works was imbued with poetry. The exquisite performance of the inspired artist pair and their partners transformed the March evening into a celebration of dance and music in the Thália theater.

The audience watched the artists spellbound from the moment the ballerina appeared on the dark stage in simple practice tricot and with slow, serene motions resumed in peaceful solitude next to the ballet barre the everyday work that forms the technical foundation of her art, the work that is indispensable, not to be neglected even for a day, the work that the ballet student performs with the same humility as the artist at the high point of her career, as Pavlova herself did her entire life.

The ballerina, the youthful artist of the subsequent generation, finishes her exercises, turns her back on the audience, and, on behalf of all of us, bows respectfully before the projection of an enlarged image of an old photograph of Anna Pavlova. The subsequent generation pays its respects. The mortal human renders homage to eternal spiritual values.

The G minor Ballad by Chopin, performed with poetic lyricism by Tamás Vásáry, began the artistic, spiritual process of summoning someone who is no longer among us.

The first half of the evening was a remembrance. The works of music, resounding unaccompanied, were taken from the compositions of Chopin: waltzes and mazurkas were played to which Pavlova most loved to dance, and the projected pictures of the great ballerina, as Tamás Vásáry confessed, gave him inspiration as he occasionally glanced up from the piano.

The compositions by Chopin were alternated with the individual works of the concert, including compositions by the two Russian Romantics, Scriabin and Rachmaninov. Henriett Tunyogi did the choreography for Scriabin's dramatic Etude. Tamás Vásáry's virtuoso performance of the work, which places perilous technical demands on the pianist, unfolded with profound drama. The changes in color of the stage lighting reinforced the tempestuous dance of the ballerina. This harmonized well with the ideas of the composer Scriabin, who ascribed considerable importance to the interplay of sound, light, and color. Tunyogi Henriett, architect of the entire spectacle, accomplished this flawlessly, following, perhaps unconsciously, the inspiration emanating from the original work.

The dance composition of German choreographer Uwe Scholoz, who passed away a few years ago, elevated the expressive power of motion to the harmonic world of Rachmaninov's sonata for cello and piano. Music and dance partners joined in the performance. Cellist László Fenyő, with whom Tamás Vásáry had the pleasure of giving a performance of Rachmaninov's sonata in perfect harmony with the essence of the work, played compositions by Kodály and Shostakovich during the second half of the evening. As dance partner for the Rachmaninov sonata Christoph Böhm came from Leipzig, where he is often partnered with the Hungarian ballerina.

The most striking dance production of the commemorative concert was Saint-Saens' Death of the Swan (Mort du Cygne), the creation of world renown choreographer of the Russian Ballet, Mihail Fokin. Tunyogi Henriett interpreted the work as a symbolic expression of human sensitivity and vulnerability, conjuring with lyricism and aesthetic quality of the highest order not only Pavlova's age, but her art itself (naturally much more intensely than the film recording, preserved as a moving document but now old and therefore technically deficient). "It was not my intention, in all this, to "dance" Pavlova, I did not want to become Pavlova on this evening, but rather a ballerina of the subsequent generation striving to emulate the work of the ballerina who since her childhood had been the paragon," while of course at the same time the ballerina of our day represents the art of ballet renewed with the passing of time and the changing world.

In the second half of the concert compositions by Ravel, Debussy, Khachaturian and Kodály, following the path that brings music and ballet to the current day, led the evening to its closing chord: the D minor sonata for piano and cello by Shostakovich, to which Tunyogi Henriett and Christoph Böhm performed a work by Renato Paroni, the internationally renowned contemporary Brazilian ballet master and choreographer. Paroni composed the work specifically for the piano-ballet evening of the Budapest Spring Festival. Following the performance of classical ballet, which strives towards beauty and harmony, Tunyogi Henriett exhibited her as of yet veiled artistic self. Here we saw her as both provocative and sarcastic, and even grotesque. The divergences in the artistic temperaments of the ballerina and the choreographer functioned not as opposites, but rather complements.

The quantity and the diversity of works enriched Tamás Vásáry's and Tunyogi Henriett's piano-ballet evening, the artistic unity of which was created not only by the mature dramaturgical coherence, but also by Tamás Vásáry's artistry. Vásáry elevated art to the almost transcendental heights of profound decency, the spiritual ability to identify with another, the comprehension of the system of life and death, and the divination of the order of the world. His unforgettable performance of Chopin's prelude in B minor was the close of the concert in commemoration of Pavlova. The figure of the pianist could only barely be discerned in the light glimmering over the almost completely darkened stage. "The stage should be empty, as it was when the orchestra played the Death of the Swan the day of Pavlova's death. It should be as dark as possible," was the request made by Tamás Vásáry himself. "But I did not want it to be completely dark," replied the ballerina softly, "Pavlova is a star in the sky, her soul yet sheds its light here."

2007. Judit. P. Csák
Zene Zene Tánc / Music Music Dance