FIVE SCENES FROM BALLET RIKY LEVI
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Premiered at the Zagreb Music Biennale on APR 17 1999 by the Ural Philharmonic and Dmitrij Liss, the author uses musical elements from his Ballet Riky Levi to create a new symphonic work
CD Igor Kuljerić Hrvatski suvremeni skladatelji, Ansambl Zeitgeist (Cantus, HDS, HRT, 2003)
Riki Levy was commissioned by the Sarajevo Ballet. It was a story about the life of the famous ballerina Riki Levy, who lived in Sarajevo before the Second World War. What was interesting in that biography is the parallelism of tragedies. Riki Levy was a very talented ballerina, but she had the tragedy of breaking her leg, so her career ended abruptly. And it all coincided with the Holocaust. Despite everything, she retained a fanatical love of ballet and a faith in art as the one that saves man from all horrors. It is the framework in which the ballet takes place.
I came into contact with the story of Riki Levy quite by accident: the director of the Sarajevo Ballet was Slavko Pervan. We knew each other from Zagreb (...). Pervan wanted an author from Croatia for the ballet Riki Levy. That's how I got the chance (...) While working on the ballet music I accidentally met Mrs. Petrovic, an ethnomusicologist who filmed old people who kept old Jewish musical tradition in synagogues in Israel. Contact with Jewish music helped me to realize many musical and ritual situations in ballet. (…) The ballet was premiered on the eve of the 1991 war. At that time, a great troupe of Russian dancers was performing in Sarajevo. (…) The war, however, interrupted the subsequent performances. (…) But I found that some of the musical material I used in the ballet was very symphonic, and for which it was a pity to remain forgotten in anticipation of ballet renewal. So I wrote a ballet suite of the same title. It is not, however, a suite such as Firebird, Petrouschka or Romeo and Juliet, in which scenes from the ballet are simply transferred to the symphonic suite. In Five Scenes I used some musical elements from the ballet to create a new symphonic work. The first scene is Pesah - Jewish Easter. Musically, the ballet also begins with a celebration of Pesah, with a slow introduction and the use of bells, hinting at a tragedy that would happen later. In this movement I used repetitive musical technique with static harmonies and increasing sound accumulation. (…) The second movement, Jeu d'Amour (Love Game) is very expressive. Dancing love numbers was one of ballerina’s obsessions. Ballet, art, love, all those noble things, Riki Levy considered them as the only weapon against the everyday life that surrounded her. Unlike the static first movement, the second movement is a journey through harmonies, through chromatics, through a melody that is extremely expressive. It’s my return to expressiveness and sensitivity in music.
The third movement is called Sur les Colinnes de Sarajevo (On the Hills of Sarajevo). It was one of ballerina’s obsessions: going out into the nature. The improvisation technique uses a free time flow with many cadenzas of solo instruments. At the end of the movement, an orgy of sounds, in fact an orgy of these improvised melodies is created. The next movement is Blanc et Noir (Black and White). It is the well known ballet concept, a Manichean idea of struggle between black and white, good and evil. It is the final stage of the development of drama in ballet, the moment when everything around her is evil, war, her personal tragedy, but she still believes in the victory of good. I developed this idea with a fierce rhythmic-sound combination, in which every beat is aggressive and pulsating. (…) The last movement Vers la fin infinie (Towards the Infinite End) is something that appears very often in music. Transfiguration. Metamorphosis. Purification. The sublimation of ballerina's ideas. In the ballet it is her death, but a death which, brought perhaps most beautifully in Wagner's Tristan, means salvation and redemption. Barely awaited death, because it means some new light. The last movement is also a kind of rite, it is as if it never began and will never end; here time and space are abolished as special categories. This idea came in handy for me, because it allowed me to write music with romantic melodies while using static chord that turns into a bright orchestral total towards the end of the movement. It is this transformation, this sublimation, this idea that art is the only possible weapon in the fight against evil.