'Concerto DSCH' — A Decade Later

'Concerto DSCH' — A Decade Later
New York City Ballet © Paul Kolnik
"Concerto DSCH" is an endlessly suspenseful choreographic construction, with passages of breathtaking dance brilliance.
The New York Times, 2008

Alexei Ratmansky's ballet Concerto DSCH is set to Dmitri Shostakovich's Concerto for Piano No. 2 in F, Op. 102, composed in 1957 and created for New York City Ballet ten years ago. Like NYCB founder George Balanchine, Ratmansky has deep connections to Russian ballet traditions and Russian music, and gets a kick out of tailoring his work to distinctive dancers. The 'DSCH' of the ballet's title refers to a musical motif of four notes (D, E-flat, C, B-natural) that form an abbreviation of the composer's name when written in German (D, Es, C, H).

Shostakovich's career had suffered greatly during the Stalinist era, but by 1957, four years after Stalin's death, he was composing with invigorating optimism. The concerto was a birthday gift for his 19-year-old son Maxim, who was the soloist at its premiere.

Ratmansky's choreography is filled with playful camaraderie in the first and third movements. The opening Allegro evokes a brisk military march, with the piano referencing the British melody "Drunken Sailor," turning reflective and quietly haunting in the middle Andante movement, which evokes longing and nostalgia in the strings, piano, and solo horn. The brief, invigorating Allegro finale takes on a 7/8 meter as the entire orchestra sprints to the finish.

Costumed to evoke swimmers or athletes of an earlier era, the dancers weave in and out of patterns that constantly redefine the stage picture. The principal couple alternates — and entertainingly interacts — with the bounding, frisky trio during the outer movements, and turn contemplative for their extended duet in the central pas de deux.

As The New York Times dance critic, Alastair Macaulay wrote, 'What's hard, at just one viewing, is to tell just how and why all this seems so miraculously right for the multiple layers of its music, the second piano concerto of Dmitri Shostakovich'.
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