Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Scenes from Daphnis and Chloe

Set design by Léon Bakst for the world premiere of Daphnis et Chloé, Paris 1912.
Set design by Léon Bakst for the world premiere of Daphnis et Chloé, Paris 1912.
On Tuesday 7 March 2017, we had a preview of the Minerva Piano Trio's forthcoming concert at St John's Smith Square. The concert features the premiere of Scenes from Daphnis and Chloe a new transcription by David Knotts for piano trio of scenes from Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe which will be played by the Minerva Piano Trio (Annie Yim, Michal Cwizewicz, Richard Birchall) with new choreography by Patricia Okenwa danced by Estela Merlos and Thomas Gulgec.

At the preview Annie Yim and Patricia Okenwa talked about the genesis of the work with Paul Hoskins, music director of Rambert, and we saw Estela Merlos and Thomas Gulgec performing the piece with the Minerva Piano Trio.

Annie Yim founded MusicArt London in 2016, a group which works with visual artists and she was interested in working with choreographers too. The Minerva Piano Trio are one of the St Johns Smith Square Young Artists for 2016/17 which gave them the chance to commission a new transcription of the Ravel and to collaborate with a choreographer. Contact with Paul Hoskins put Annie Yim in touch with dancers and the choreographer Patricia Okenwa who had performed as a dancer with Rambert.

Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe was chosen partly because Ravel's own Piano Trio was so effective, and because many of his works exist on different scales such as the Mother Goose Suite which has versions for piano duet and for orchestra. The composer David Knotts advised on the scenes to used, and Nocturne, Pantonmime and Danse Guerriere were those chosen.

Daphnis et Chloé was premiered in Paris in 1912, performed by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes with choreography by Fokine and designs by Léon Bakst, Pierre Monteux conducted. The two leading roles were danced by Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Kasarvina.

Choreographer Patricia Okenwa commented that Daphnis and Chloe is a huge narrative ballet, and that she does not usually create narrative ballets, but she loved Ravel's Piano Trio and felt that David Knotts' transcription of Scenes from Daphnis and Chloe took her into that world. The original ballet was inspired by Longus's novel (which is rather different to the ballet) and she read the novel and was inspired by that, trying to capture the transition from innocence to maturity and developing sexuality in the piece. The resulting work moves away from narrative to something more abstract.

It is quite unusual to have dance in the concert hall, particularly in the intimacy of a chamber music recital. Annie Yim commented that now they have become familiar with the choreography, the players find themselves responding to the choreography whilst playing. David Knotts' transcription brings transparency and intimacy to Ravel's score yet is still recognisably like Daphins and Chloe.

The Minerva Piano Trio with Estela Merlos and Thomas Gulgec perform Scenes from Daphnis and Chloe, music by Ravel transcribed David Knotts, choreography Patrica Okenwa on Thursday 9 March 2017 at St John's Smith Square. The concert also includes Mozart's Piano Trio in B flat K502, Ravel's Piano trio and Cheryl Frances Hoad's My Fleeting Angel. Full details from the St John's Smith Square website.

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