Nurymov The Fate of Sukhovey Suite
Tchaikovsky The Sleeping Beauty Suite
Stravinsky (arr. McPhee) The Rite of Spring
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, leader Amyn Merchant
Seeta Patel Dance
Kiril Karabits: Conductor
Seeta Patel Choreographer
POOLE’S Lighthouse was packed to the rafters for a typically-stimulating all-dance programme from Karabits and the BSO, who performed three ballet scores from Russia and Turkmenistan. The evening also included a contribution from Seeta Patel Dance, providing an exciting version of The Rite of Spring.
The programme started with another of Karabits’s discoveries in his Voices from the East programme, in which he continues to reveal the hidden and neglected gems of music from the old Soviet Union. This time, the audience was introduced to music by Chary Nurymov (1941-93) from Turkmenistan. For those whose geography is a little rusty, Turkmenistan is a largely desert country to the east of the Caspian Sea, and north of Iran and Afghanistan. Invaded and occupied by Russia in the 19th century, it became part of the USSR before declaring independence in 1991, since when it has remained under the thumbs of a succession of corrupt dictators.
Culturally, Turkmenistan has been described as the last easternmost outpost of western classical music. Nurymov was a friend and contemporary of Karabits’s father Ivan, with the two families holidaying together. We heard the rich, exotic ballet score from The Fate of Sukhovey, which is a socialist realist ballet written in the 1960s about two young idealists combating the effects of the arid Sukhovey wind by diverting a river and irrigating the parched soil of their homeland. It proved to be imaginatively orchestrated, with at times a sumptuous, almost Hollywood film score feel from the BSO strings.
Next came the much-more familiar Sleeping Beauty ballet suit by Tchaikovsky, written in 1889 towards the end of the composer’s life. He died before he had finalised his choices of the ballet’s rich music to make up an orchestral suite, supposedly because he was spoiled for choice. This was much more familiar territory for the audience, which greatly enjoyed Tchaikovsky’s unflagging melodic invention.
After the interval, excitement mounted – as it always does – for the viscerally exciting music of Stravinsky’s 1912 ballet The Rite of Spring. This time, it was made yet more exciting because we not only heard the music but were treated to a thrilling performance of the ballet, in a newly-adapted version by Seeta Patel Dance, drawing on Indian dance traditions. The orchestra, the men tie-less and everyone including the conductor in white shirts, were stationed behind a large temporary dance stage on which the ten dancers, clad in billowing pastel robes, performed a never-flagging sequence of beautiful and dramatic moves. It was sensitively lit, which really added to the sense of a unified spectacle, taking in dancers, conductor and orchestra. Seeta Patel’s choreography was so natural and inventive that it seemed impossible to imagine the Rite being performed in any other way. All ten dancers were almost constantly on stage, and the complexity and variety of their movement was breathtaking.
This was a real ground-breaker, and yet more evidence of the terrific level that the orchestra has reached in Karabits’s 15-year association with them. The good news is that a repeat performance is coming up on Thursday 23rd November at The Anvil in Basingstoke, and at the time of writing there were a few seats still available.