As was announced about a year ago, the Featured Composer for the 2015–2016 season of the New Century Chamber Orchestra (NCCO) has been Jennifer Higdon. Her music was introduced to NCCO audiences as part of the programming for the first concert of the season; and the season will conclude next month with the world premiere of Higdon’s Dance Card, written on a commission shared by NCCO and River Oaks. The idea behind the commission was to provide a new dance suite for string ensemble that would reflect both soloistic and ensemble virtuosity. The result consists of five separate movements, each of which can be performed as a separate work. Higdon describes the suite in its entirety as “a celebration of the joy, lyricism and passion of a group of strings playing together.”
The title of the entire program is Delight in Dancing, and the three other selections will parallel Higdon’s interest in music created around the theme of different approaches to dance. The opening selection will be the result of Igor Stravinsky’s early collaboration with choreographer George Balanchine for the ballet “Apollo.” Stravinsky originally wanted to call the score, written for string orchestra, “Apollon musagète” (Apollo, leader of the Muses); but, in one of the many conversations he had with Robert Craft during the late years of his life, he acknowledged that “Apollo,” the name Balanchine preferred for the ballet, was also preferable for the music.
The program will conclude with a much more familiar piece of ballet music. To be fair, however, it is almost never played as part of a full-length performance of the ballet for which it was composed. The ballet is Gayane, choreographed by Nina Aleksandrovna Anisimova in 1942 with a score by Aram Khachaturian. That score, particularly its “Sabre Dance” movement, fared much better than the ballet, which was overhauled and given an entirely new plot in 1957, as well as a revised score. Nevertheless, the “Sabre Dance” has had a successful life of its own entirely independent of the ballet and should serve very well to bring the 2015–2016 NCCO season to a rousing conclusion.
The remaining work on the program is a dance scene written for an opera. The opera is the one-act “Salome” by Richard Strauss. The dance scene is usually known as the “Dance of the Seven Veils.” This may not be as popular as Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance;” but it is definitely far more erotic!
The San Francisco performance of this concert will take place on Saturday, May 7, at Herbst Theatre at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. The concert will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for $29, $49, and $61. Tickets may be purchased online through a City Box Office event page. They may also be purchased by phone at 415-392-4400 or by visiting City Box Office in person at 180 Redwood Street, Suite 100. Business hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
This concert will also have an open rehearsal on May 4, beginning at 10 a.m. This will take place at the Kanbar Performing Arts Center at 44 Page Street, also a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. Tickets will be available for $15 at the door or online from City Box Office.