Ax and Ma chatted about their relationship over the years and the personal idiosyncrasies that sustain or annoy them both. To engage novice listeners, the Beethoven’s sonata became the subject of some slightly nerdy talk about the tonic-dominant-tonic arches that propelled the Beethoven’s sonata. Finally, somehow, they drifted to discussing chef Jacques Pépin’s freaky tolerance for seizing hot skillets its supposed relevance in interpreting the piano attacks in the scherzo.
Johann Sebastian Bach
With the dreariest seasons of late fall and winter fading away, those days Wallace Stevens described as being “evening all afternoon,” a few Union offerings I attended were enough to nourish the soul to spring in which a Beethoven’s Semiquincentennial will be celebrated.
The Bach Choir of Bethlehem surely must be one of the most extraordinary musical institutions in the world. Situated a small city with an important industrial history, now entirely in the past, the Bach Choir has a tradition connecting it with a point in the performance history of Bach's music which antedates the Mendelssohnian Bach Revival by six years. Bethlehem can also be proud that this venerable institution did not emerge from the indulgences of the city's wealthiest families, but from the religious traditions of the Moravian Protestants who settled there in the 18th century. Following the precepts of Martin Luther, they held their musical traditions in high esteem.
In the decade after the second world war, Paris and London, in addition to the big national companies, supported a myriad of small and prolific ballet companies. One of these was Boris Kochno's Ballets des Champs-Elysées. Kochno had been Serge Diaghelev's secretary in the Ballets Russes days, so in a way it was he who inherited the Ballets Russes tradition in Europe while Colonel de Basil and Serge Denham's two respective Ballets Russes spin-offs were still touring the US and Australia. Kochno, as artistic director, founded the company with writer Jean Cocteau, and dancer and choreographer Roland Petit, who had trained in the Paris Opera Ballet School and danced in the corps de ballet until the Liberation. In 1948 Petit started his own small company, the Ballets de Paris, which only lasted a few years, but managed to cause great excitement in Paris and travelled well to London. Indeed, he worked with Margot Fontaine several times. We don't often get to see his ballets nowadays (though there are also a great many other modern ballets from those years, even some of Michel Fokine's, that don't get much air either), but the Paris Opera Ballet is currently showing three of Petit's short pieces, Le Rendez-vous (1945), Le Loup (1953) and Le Jeune Homme et La Mort (1946) which have been in the national company's repertoire since 1992, 1975 and 1990 respectively.