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DVD Review

Mats Ek


  • (Finale of Beethoven's Piano Sonata #32, Op. 111)
Sylvie Guillem, dancer
Ivo Pogorelich, piano
Kultur DVD D4468 22m (Bonus - Behind the Scenes: 17m) Anamorphic Widescreen LPCM
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Bye is a ballet choreographed for a single dancer and set to music by Beethoven. The description on the album's back cover identifies the music as Beethoven's last piano sonata. True, but more specifically what we have here is the finale of this two movement work – and the pianist is Ivo Pogorelich. Normally, identifying the performer as Pogorelich would send out a big red flag as this pianist has often become an eccentric interpreter in the last decade or so of his career. Some of his recent performances on YouTube are simply bizarre. Luckily this account of the finale of Beethoven's Op. 111 is quite convincing. The choreography is imaginative in its undeniably modern and cerebral – cerebral in its dry humor, detached sadness and plentiful symbolism.

Danced in street clothes by French ballerina Sylvie Guillem, the ballet seems to depict a woman entering and then vigorously exploring a space. At the back of this space is a rectangle of light that appears to serve as a mirror for her and later on as a window for a crowd of onlookers who gather outside. It's hard to determine what specifically the woman uncovers in this space, but her facial expressions suggest her findings are often disturbing and challenging to her, as if she learns the truth about herself, about her strengths, about her weaknesses. Those looking on near the end must also be observing some such things about her – or are they people from her past that her mind projects upon the scene?

The sets, or should I say, "set" is bare except for the rectangle of light and the stage floor. Guillem dances her heart out and is thoroughly absorbed by the music and her own actions. What does this ballet mean? Well, Beethoven's music builds toward and then reaches an angelic and serene paradise. I would say the woman in this ballet has reached her own serenity and satisfaction about her existence. But then I suppose others will interpret it differently.

The camera work and sound reproduction are excellent. If you like modern ballet or something quite off the beaten path, you should find this an interesting offering. Too bad more modern productions aren't this intriguing, this imaginative.

Copyright © 2013, Robert Cummings