The stage itself was taken up with choreography devised by Akram Khan, the South Banks choreographer-in-residence. What he describes as Contemporary Kathak, the combining of Indian Classical dance with a broad-based, modern-dance technique, is an athletic realisation of the rhythmic animation inherent in Lindbergs music. Five dancers, their black attire in stark contrast to the white light of the stage, enacted a sequence involving permutations of the ensemble akin to a freeform rethink of Balanchines dance-steps for Stravinskys Agon. While a deeper synchronicity between sound and vision was only fitfully in evidence, the combination of the two never felt forced or redundant.
Unfortunately, this was not the case with Bill Violas video art for Vareses Déserts (1954). This craggy, uncompromising masterpiece of the composers late years yields expressive vulnerability, conveyed as much by the deserts of the inner person as by actual terrain. Esa-Pekka Salonen directed a confident account, a shade unsubtle in expression, well co-ordinated with the video. A pity that only an overhead screen, rather than wrap-round projection, was feasible, as the staid visuals of desert scenes and sub-aqua footage might have benefited from a more spatial presentation. Nothing, however, could have enlivened the catatonic sequences of the man breakfasting to the visceral sonic imagery of Vareses electronic interludes: why were the 1961 final versions, recently re-mastered, not used? The final disintegration of the human returned to the primal suggested not so much a metaphysical outcome as a tying up of disjunctive and indifferently conceived planes of thought. The visual component added nothing to Vareses potent soundscsape, suggesting that, though Viola may not partake of the cynicism of his age, he has at least on this occasion succumbed to its vacuousness. The true visual counterpoint to this music remains to be evolved.
Paradoxically, the one item on the programme conceived as a ballet was the one performed without any choreographic or visual element. Not that Les noces (1923), Stravinskys masterly and still startling abstraction of a Russian peasant wedding, its emotion frozen in sound and gesture, needs to be seen to be experienced. The present performance was an engrossing, if at times over-frenetic one female and male choral singers divided left and right, with the four pianos and four percussionists of Stravinskys final version set behind the four soloists.
Accurate and animated as were Susans Bullock and Bickley, there were upstaged by John Daszak and Peter Sidholm, making the most of their opportunities to project the characters who people this inventive and exhilarating score. In such music, maybe the ideal choreography is that left to the minds eye.
- Related Rocks continues on 7, 9 and 10 February 2002
- Box Office: 020 7960 4242 www.rfh.org.uk/lindberg