The Ballet I Did Not See in 2012
2012 did not bring the two works I've been anticipating for years: choreography to Schubert's Fifth Symphony and Haydn's Symphony no. 100, also known as the Military. I'll probably never get to see them but since it's the end of 2012 I can keep dreaming. Every year I read about choreographers and dance companies commissioning new music from conservatories, graduate schools or established composers. Sometimes (but rarely) it's good, most times forgettable (I am sure that I hear rumblings already.) So I'm putting in my two cents for Schubert and Haydn, both of whom have had works choreographed to their music, but not my particular symphonies.
Let's take a brief look at these two composers. First there's Haydn. Talk about a successful career: an employee of Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy and then his brother Nikolaus, both from the richest family in the Hungarian nobility. I like the name "Paul Anton Esterhazy" It sounds like the name of a successful producer. Couldn't you just see it on a marquee: "Paul Anton Esterhazy presents Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews in My Fair Haydn?"
When Nikolaus was building a palace complete with opera house he put Haydn in charge of its productions. Haydn now went into an accelerated mode: composing operas, symphonies, concertos, sonatas, chamber music and lieder (German for songs.) He signed a contract with the Prince that allowed him to sell to sell his compositions to publishers, ensuring him a big income and royalties. He was later invited to London for two successful seasons where he was greeted and feted as a mega celebrity. It was during these two sojourns that he wrote what became known as the 12 London symphonies, some of the greatest works of the 18th century. He later moved to Vienna, wrote two celebrated oratorios and continued to drive hard bargains with publishers. He died in splendor, famous throughout Europe, his music performed more often in his lifetime than any other living composer.
Schubert was a different story. He began his career as a schoolteacher, leaving that profession to lead the life of a freelance composer. Like Haydn he composed string quartets, symphonies, sonatas, operas and most important, lieder (600 of them!), which he started composing at the age of 17. By all standards it was an uneventful life and professionally it was disastrous. Some of his operas and incidental music for plays were unsuccessfully staged in his lifetime and his lieder were usually performed at intimate gatherings at the homes of his friends. Otherwise he remained unknown. He died at 31 from either typhus or syphilis, no one is sure. So Schubert never knew success in his lifetime, only in death was he admitted into the pantheon of great composers.
Haydn's music has been the source of many ballets: Balanchine choreographed a ballet to Trumpet Concerto, Massine a ballet to the Clock Symphony, Jiri Kylian his ballet Symphony in D to Symphony No.101 (The Clock) and Symphony No. 73 (The Chase), Miro Magliore's The Letter to Haydn's Sonata in D Major, Uwe Scholz choreographed the oratio The Creation (talk about ambitious ballets!) and John Taras choreographed his Haydn Concerto to the Concerto no. 1 for flute, oboe and orchestra.
If there's been anyone whose used Haydn as a source of stimulation it's been Twyla Tharp.: the last two movements of Symphony no. 45 for As Time Goes By, Symphony no 82 for Push Comes to Shove, and the Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn for the Brahms/Haydn Variations.