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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

Leonide Massine's Music Laboratory: On the 125th Anniversary of the Outstanding Choreographer’s Birth

Bezuglaia Galina Aleksandrovna

PhD in Art History

Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Music Art of Vaganova Ballet Academy

191023, Russia, g. Saint Petersburg, ul. Zodchego Rossi, 2

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Abstract: This article explores the musical component and artistic activity of the Russian diaspora's outstanding choreographer Leonide Massine (1895–1979), whose 125th birthday was celebrated by the theatrical world in 2020. The main milestones of the choreographer's musical education are noted, the spectrum of his musical interests is revealed, and his techniques of working with the music of the created ballets are studied. The purpose of this research, carried out using historical and typological methods, is to study the stages of the formation of the choreographer's musical maturity and style. The circumstances of Massine's collaboration with contemporary composers Manuel de Falla, Eric Satie, Sergei Prokofiev, and Paul Hindemith are also considered. Special attention is paid to the formation of a system of artistic methods of working with music in the choreographer’s joint work with Igor Stravinsky on the implementation of the ballets Pulcinella and Sacred Spring. The questions of Massine's attitude to such spheres of musical expressiveness, including rhythm, dynamics, and timbre, are highlighted. The methods of the choreographer's work with works of symphonic music are studied, and the ways of achieving musical and plastic synthesis in the stage solutions of Massine's choreographic symphonies are analyzed, including Omens (1933) to the music of the Fifth Symphony by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Choreartium (1933) to the music of the 4th Symphony by Johannes Brahms, Fantastic Symphony (1936) to the music of the symphony by the same name by Hector Berlioz, etc. It is concluded that the laws of musical composition and dramaturgy were a source of artistic renewal and enrichment for the choreographer’s style, marking the development of his choreography's intellectual beginning.


musical theater, musicality of choreography, ballet music, musicology, ballet, music, Hindemith, symphony-ballet, Stravinsky, Myasin

In 2020, the theater world celebrated the 125th anniversary of the birth of one of the most outstanding choreographers of the Russian diaspora, Léonide Massine (1895–1979) (Leonid Fyodorovich Myasin). Massine was a Russian ballet master and dancer, member of the "Russian Seasons" and founder of the company Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo, who became famous as the creator of comedy ballets and ballet symphonies. He always showed a special interest and attention to music, its expressive properties, and drama throughout his career. During his long career, Massine performed more than seventy successful productions to the music of Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, Schubert and Beethoven, Wagner and Prokofiev, Satie and Hindemith, de Falla and Stravinsky, and developed special techniques and methods of musical work. However, despite the choreographer's significant contribution to the symphonization of ballet and the involvement of highly artistic music in the field of ballet art, Massine's sphere of musical and artistic interests and achievements rarely attracts the attention of researchers to his work. This is largely due to the versatility of the choreographer's creative hobbies, his immersion in various arts, first of all, of course, visual and plastic, represented by works of painting and architecture. For example, extensive research material on the visual sources of the choreographer's inspiration is provided in the fundamental monograph by E. Surits [1], which details the methods and circumstances of Massine's work with outstanding artists of the era. However, it is undeniable that the musical sphere of the work of an outstanding master deserves equally careful consideration.

In this article, we will pay attention to the main milestones of Massine's musical development and consider the features of his approach to solving the problems of musical and choreographic synthesis. This will allow us to study the musical foundations of Massine's work. It will also let us take a closer look at a young student of the Moscow Theater School, who is fond of dramatic art, painting, and playing the balalaika, and his transformation into a mature choreographer and serious musician, and author of ballet symphonies, collaborating with the most advanced composers of his time.

The son of musicians (a French orchestral horn player and an artist in the Bolshoi Theater Choir), Massine grew up in the atmosphere of music from childhood. As the choreographer noted in his memoirs, one of his first musical impressions was his father's performance of the overture to Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven. At the age of eight, Massine played the harmonica and French horn. During his studies at the Moscow Theater School, he mastered two more musical instruments: "At this time (1905), I started studying the violin with a professional teacher who worked in the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra. I wanted to deepen my understanding of serious music, I studied very hard, but at the same time, I liked to play the balalaika." [2, p. 18]

Children's impressions of the young artist are filled with the sound of music: these are the melodies of the waltz by Johann Strauss and the Hungarian Rhapsodies by Franz Liszt, arias by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, marches and instrumental pieces by Franz Schubert. This is also the music of everyday life: children's rhymes that Massine sang as a child, Ukrainian songs that his mother performed, "New Orleans jazz," and the popular Brazilian tango "Matchish" [2, p. 29]. And of course, the choreographer talked about how he fell in love with the music of ballets: as a student of the theater school, already "accustomed" to the music of Puni and Minkus, he was won over by Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty, which made up a "combination of wonderful melodies" [2, p. 37].

Communication with Sergei Diaghilev and his multi-faceted personality, in whose famous troupe Massine had the opportunity to declare himself first a dancer and soon a choreographer, greatly enriched the musical and artistic experience of the young choreographer. As you may know, the activities of the "Russian Seasons" largely determined the main line of development of theatrical and musical art in the first third of the twentieth century. However, it should be noted that the choreographer's introduction to the artistic world of modern art, which Massine performed under the direction of Diaghilev, surrounded by outstanding composers and artists, would have been impossible without his own amazing involvement and active thirst for knowledge and artistic intuition. While working in the Diaghilev company, where he was one of the main choreographers for more than six years (from 1915 to 1921, and later performed in 1924–1928), Massine enriched the experience of perceiving serious symphonic music, referring to the works of composers of the classical heritage. Here, the young choreographer had the opportunity to communicate creatively with the outstanding composers of the era – Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, Manuel de Falla, Georges Auric, Sergei Prokofiev.

Attention is drawn to the unwavering and systematic way Massine independently enriches his musical experience during these years and educates and develops his artistic taste: he meticulously recorded his musical impressions, "feelings of music" [2, p. 71]. Both Massine's versatility in his musical tastes and his enthusiastic interest in works of different eras and styles are striking. With passion, the young choreographer turned to the music of the past and present: he listened to the keyboard and theater music of Giovanni Pergolesi, Domenico Cimarosa, and Domenico Scarlatti ("Together [with Diaghilev] we listened to about 500 of Scarlatti's sonatas " [2, p. 78]), admired the "gentle pastoral music" of Ravelevsky's Daphnis and Chloe [2, p. 67], and was inspired by "syncopated ragtime music" and the "deep melancholy music of Gershwin" during the American tour [2, p. 71].

And here, among the world's artistic and musical achievements that Massine mastered, Russian music occupied a special place. The choreographer mentions with satisfaction the upcoming work with the symphonic painting Kikimora by his beloved Anatoly Lyadov, with a rich melodic score, The Snow Maiden by Rimsky-Korsakov, which provides a magnificent image of the Russian peasant character [2, p. 64]. Massine highly appreciated the artistic merits of the music of Stravinsky's Russian ballets – The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring. He dreamed of staging Les Noces: "It's endless and close, and I'll be in heaven if I manage to do it well. The music is absolutely wonderful" [Cit. po 1, p. 40] (Note that Massine only managed to stage Stravinsky's Les Noces in 1966).

Interest in the selection of music for a choreographic production

If the ideas of Massine's early ballets initially reflected the range of musical interests of his "artistic mentor" (it was Diaghilev who suggested the music of Pavane by Gabriel Fauré, the symphonic poem of Lyadov's Kikimora, and Scarlatti's sonatas for Massine's first productions), then the choreographer later more and more began to show independence and initiative in relation to music. Massine had already largely determined the musical composition of the ballet The Good-Humoured Ladies (1917), which includes sonatas by Scarlatti "exclusively in fast, and swift tempos that could be used for buffoonery" [1, p.49].

When creating ballets in the 1920s, Massine's attitude to the choice of music largely reflected the neoclassical and neo-baroque trends of European art in the first third of the twentieth century. Thus, the idea of referring to the works of Giovanni Pergolesi and other authors of the eighteenth century. The development of the score for Pulcinella (1920), proposed by Diaghilev, inspired the choreographer, who took an active part in selecting manuscripts in the Conservatorio di Musica di San Pietro a Majella's library in Naples [2, p.159].

It should be noted that the attention the choreographer showed to ancient music was not typical for the ballet masters' artistic practice in the first third of the twentieth century. The musical preferences of Michel Fokin, as well as of his young contemporaries Fyodor Lopukhov, Georgiy Balanchivadze (the future George Balanchine), and Kasyan Goleizovsky (choreographers who showed an active interest in the independent selection of music for their productions), in the 1920s were mainly concentrated in the field of instrumental lyrics of the nineteenth to the early twentieth century. Like Isadora Duncan (and not without her influence), who found inspiration and ideas of a new synthesis in romantic music, choreographers showed a constant interest in the works of Frédéric Chopin, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Mikhail Glinka, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and the poetic imagery of these composers' works became particularly relevant in the choreographic work of the first decades of the twentieth century. Massine first turned to Tchaikovsky's music in 1933 when creating a choreographic symphony to Chopin's works only three decades later (Dryads, 1954). And in the early 1920s, the choreographer collaborated with the most radical composers in terms of artistic innovation, Erik Satie and Igor Stravinsky, and at the same time was fascinated by the era of the Grand Siècle, creating a series of stylized "baroque" performances.

The period of Massine's independent creative activity outside the troupe of the "Russian Seasons" in Paris and London was also marked by performances to the music of the Baroque era. Thus, Massine supported his idea of the ballet Salade: Ballet en deux actes (1924, for the "Paris Evenings" of Count Etienne de Beaumont), in which the features of the "Italian comedy of masks, farce and French comic opera" would be intertwined [3, p.10] with the music of dances of the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries: "The melodies that I chose for the libretto, the orchestra was conducted by Darius Milhaud, a stocky young man of a rather scholarly appearance. He greatly changed them, creating sharp, aggressive and broken rhythms" [2, p. 168]. In the course of working with the composer, a composition was built, stylized as an old French ballet with singing: "In Salade, the vocal numbers are presented in a 'natural' form: solo performances of characters, ensembles, choirs, alternating with spoken dialogues and instrumental episodes" [3, p. 11]. The fruitful collaboration with Milhaud, who fully shared Massine's dramatic concept, was reflected both in the deployment of the choreographic action and in the musical solution of each number of the ballet.

The idea of a vocal-dance synthesis formed the basis for the concept of staging dances in Domenico Cimarosa's opera The Wiles of Women, a new orchestral interpretation presented by Ottorino Respighi for Diaghilev's enterprise. "I came up with a series of short divertissements, from which I later made a separate ballet, Cimarosiana," wrote Massine [2, p. 161]. He insisted that the dance suite is very consistent with the eighteenth-century style [2, p. 161]. For the Paris Evenings of Count Etienne de Beaumont, the choreographer also choreographed the stage ballet Giga (1924) to music by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, and Domenico Scarlatti. Later, in 1933, Jean Françaix (1912–1997) composed the score for the ballet Scuola di ballo for Massine, where quotes from Luigi Boccherini were used.

Later, during his long theatrical career, Massine was often attracted to the music of the past. However, the multiplicity of the choreographer's artistic interests (revealed in a motley variety of visual forms) directed his attention to the most diverse music in terms of genres, epochs, and styles.

Massine often selected musical material for productions himself and then turned to composers or arrangers, requesting them to orchestrate the selected works. In different years, Massine collaborated with Roger Désormière (1898–1963), Manuel Rosenthal (1904–2003), Efrem Kurtz (1900–1995), Richard Mohaupt (1904–1957), Gordon Jacob (1895–1984), Ivan Boutnikoff (1883–1972), Claude Arrieu (1903–1990), and other musicians.

In his creative search, Massine also paid attention to light genre music. For the comedy ballet Le Beau Danube (1924), Massine selected waltzes and polkas by Johann Strauss and Joseph Lanner, which, at his request, were compiled into a score and orchestrated by the French conductor and composer Roger Désormière. The musical work Gaîté Parisienne (1938) for Etienne de Beaumont, who suggested that Massine put the ballet to the music of Jacques Offenbach, was very unusual. First, the music for the performance was selected from five handwritten scores received from the composer's heir, and many fragments of Offenbach's music were played in the ballet for the first time. Secondly, having initially rejected de Beaumont's proposal, Massine changed his mind, following the professional recommendation of Igor Stravinsky. The composer and conductor Manuel Rosenthal, who created the score for Gaîté Parisienne, said the following about it: "I have never been involved in the orchestration of music by another composer and tried to give up (this job). But still, I did it − and immediately, I displeased Massine. He said I was disrespectful to Offenbach because I had changed some of the harmonies and the key. I told him that I didn't want to argue about it but that we should turn to someone whose opinion he couldn't refute: I meant Stravinsky! So we went to Stravinsky, and the pianist played him the score, and Stravinsky said, 'Leonid, if you give up this score, you will give up the greatest success of your life!'" [4]. Stravinsky, who knew the choreographer's comedic talent and musical flair well, was visionary: the performance received huge success and long stage life.

Massine turned to the music of operettas in the future. In 1943, he staged the ballet Mam'zelle Angot to the music of the operetta La Fille de Madame Angot by Charles Lecoq, arranged by Efram Kurtz and orchestrated by Richard Mohaupt.

But to embody the central, grandiose themes of the mature period of his work (the 1930s−1940s), the choreographer felt the need to work with serious classical music. This stage of Massine's work was characterized by a departure from the idea of a suite-type performance and became a time of treating major symphonic works. However, the path to creating a ballet symphony was long, and Massine realized that he would have to enrich his experience of understanding symphonic music by working with outstanding musicians on that path.

Features of collaboration with composers

Working in the Diaghilev enterprise created excellent opportunities for working with the most prominent masters of the era. Composers, choreographers, screenwriters, artists, and, of course, Diaghilev himself (who was the initiator of many successful stage plans) jointly discussed and developed strategies and details of future performances. Not all ideas, however, were realized (as, for example, the joint idea with Maurice Ravel of the "sports ballet" [2, p. 137]).

For Massine, the stage production process of a play usually began immediately after the composer provided him with the finished score. This is how the choreographer collaborated with Satie to prepare the ballet Parade (1917). "As soon as Erik Satie, who was asked to write the music for the ballet, presented his sharp, satirical score, I started working on the choreography," the choreographer recalled [2, p. 131]. The stylistic diversity of Satie's music, in tune with the diversity of Massine's musical tastes (as well as the bright, moving abstract scenery of Picasso), could not be better suited to the experimental visual ideas of the choreographer: "From my point of view, the music with its skillful combination of jazz and ragtime provided excellent material based on which it was possible to create many new choreographic forms" [2, p.131].

Gradually, Massine developed a method of work carried out according to the algorithm: selection of musical material; joint discussion with the composer of the concept of the performance and the form of work with the selected musical fragments; the composer's interpretation of the proposed music; and staging of the performance on the original score presented by the composer.

This is how, for example, the work with Manuel de Falla on The Three-Cornered Hat (1919) was carried out. The initial introduction to the music for the comic drama ballet The Magistrate and the Miller's Wife, perceived by Massine as a combination of "strength and passion" [Massine, p.139], resulted in a joint journey with the composer through the Spanish provinces, familiarizing him with the unique material of folk songs and dances. De Falla enriched the score and the music with new themes composed by himself and gave his work a clear and logical construction [2, p.140]. Massine highly appreciated it, thanks to which the choreographer built his idea that "dancing in ballet naturally develops from the artistic narrative" [2, p. 140]. The finished presented musical composition, which included many Spanish melodies that he liked, delighted Massine: "I recognized the melancholy song of the blind man in Granada and was amazed at how de Falla included it in the lyrical Sevillana. The score, which was beautifully orchestrated and modernly processed, preserved the purity of farruca, jota, and many other Spanish dances" [2, p. 144].

Massine often sought to obtain music as quickly as possible and sometimes began work using still unfinished, rough drafts of the score, such as when preparing Ottorino Respighi's ballet Le Boutique Fantasque (1919) to a tune by Gioachino Rossini. Massine collaborated in the same way with Igor Stravinsky when working on Pulcinella.

Due to this peculiarity of the choreographer's work, the collaboration with Satie in the production of the ballet Mercure (1924) did not develop harmoniously in all respects, even though the artistic intentions of Massine and Satie coincided, and the composer worked with passion. "My goal was to make music, so to speak, an integral part of the actions and gestures of people," the composer noted [5, p.232]. However, Satie was annoyed that Massine was rushing him to get the finished score to him as soon as possible. In addition, in developing his idea, the choreographer asked the composer for significantly more music than originally intended (instead of the expected length of sound in eight minutes, it took fifteen). Therefore, Satie was forced to speed up his work a lot. Rightly believing that haste worsens quality, he criticized the Massinesky haste, recalling it even many years later [5, p. 232].

With the music of Sergei Prokofiev, Massine got the opportunity to work in the production of the ballet Le Pas d'Acier (The Steel Step,1927). Massine did not participate in developing the idea and script of this ballet, and Prokofiev, as one of the authors of the libretto, himself determined the structure and composition of his composition (the score was created in 1925–1926). Admiring the skill and talent of the choreographer, Prokofiev gave a high assessment of his works. This is evidenced by the composer's diaries Les femmes de bonne humeur: the music of Scarlatti is very funny and talentedly set by Massine [6, p.99]; "very entertaining, inventive, and talented" (about the ballet The Song of the Nightingale) [6, p. 100]; "The ballet is set by Massine smartly and cheerfully" (about the ballet Sailors) [6, p. 328]. The composer was happy to cooperate and joined in the assigned work with interest [6, p. 554].

Massine based his production on a complete musical text, but after reading it, he suggested giving the music a different dramatic interpretation. Prokofiev was quite loyal to the attempt to rework the libretto as he considered the choreographer capable of understanding the music and giving it an extraordinary reading: "It began with the fact that Massine completely rejected the projects of the plot invented by Yakulov and me. I didn't protest much. It was only important to direct Massine and keep him so that his projects did not contradict my music" [6, p.557]. Massine sensitively caught the musical intentions of the composer, who used deliberately rigid harmonies and monotonous "mechanical" rhythms, "inventing," according to Prokofiev, "an interesting factory-machine movement" [6, p. 562]. The composer's feedback on the results of the work was contradictory but generally positive: "Massine's choreography, sometimes inventive and strong, sometimes unpleasant, disrespectful of the music: forte and piano, the counterpoint of the ballet, but four or eight, while I leave the square […] The band played well, but without the overall strength. By the end, a rise is formed, which came out in Massine, Yakulov, and me, and this creates success" [6, p. 566].

Working with Igor Stravinsky

In 1920, Massine created a production of the ballet Pulcinella for the Russian Seasons, for which Diaghilev invited Stravinsky to develop a score based on the music of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. In the same year, Massine performed a dance version of the opera The Nightingale (the ballet was called Le chant du Rossignol [The Song of the Nightingale]) and prepared the premiere of a new production of The Rite of Spring.

As you may know, Igor Stravinsky began his career as a theater composer in collaboration with the outstanding choreographers of the Russian Seasons, Mikhail Fokin and Vaclav Nijinsky. However, despite the brilliant success of The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and the enormous public response that The Rite of Spring (1913) received, the composer later gave a very ambiguous assessment of the dance works of his fellow choreographers.

Stravinsky, who had already become famous and well-recognized at that time, reacted favorably to working with Massine, and the work took place in an atmosphere of fruitful cooperation. "The task that I had to perform, that is, to write a ballet according to a certain scenario with paintings of various characters following one another, required frequent meetings with Diaghilev, Picasso, and Massine. For this reason, I went from time to time to visit them in Paris, where we agreed on all the details," the composer recalled [7, p.192]. However, as Stravinsky acknowledged, these discussions were not without controversy. The source of the problem was that Massine, as usual, began to perform the production "in the course of" writing the music without waiting for the orchestral score. "Massine set the dances on the clavier, which I sent him in parts, as I finished their orchestral score," wrote Stravinsky [7, p. 192].

According to Massine, the cheerful nature of the production should have been supported by the bright and rich sound of a large orchestra. "When he showed me some of the steps and movements that had already been set, I was horrified to see that their character and emphasized significance did not correspond in any way to the modest sonority of my small chamber orchestra. They, based on their tastes and desires, expected something completely different, and not what was in my score," the composer wrote [7, p. 192]. And in all the controversial cases, as Stravinsky noted, the authority of the composer and his music won: "I had to... to reset the dances, adapting them to my sonority. Massine and the ballet dancers were very tired of all this, although they were aware that there was no other way out" [7, p. 192–193].

Wanting to "protect Massine from annoying misunderstandings"[7, p. 195], Stravinsky began to devote much more time to the production and was present more often at ballet rehearsals. And in close cooperation, the work bore fruit: the composer not only highly appreciated the work of the choreographer ("this ballet was one of the best of Massine's productions" [7, p.195]), but also recognized this method of work as incredibly harmonious: "Pulcinella is one of those rare performances where everything is strictly balanced, and where all the components of the plot, music, choreography, and decorative design merge into one whole, harmonious and unified" [7, p. 195].

Starting to implement a new choreographic production of The Rite of Spring (Diaghilev ordered it after he was convinced that it was impossible to restore Vaslav Nijinsky's performance), Massine built his work in line with the experience gained with the composer, taking into account his vision of musical and visual synthesis. Massine was most likely aware that Stravinsky was not entirely happy with Nijinsky's production, claiming that the choreographer failed to achieve harmony in the combination of music and movement in the work. According to the score's creator, the choreographer, relying on the principles of eurythmics (in preparation for the performance, Nijinsky was assisted by an employee of Jaques-Dalcroze's School of Eurythmics, Marie Rambert), followed the rhythmic construction of the music too "literally," based on the analogy "note, motive = step, movement." This led to a slowdown in the music's performance tempo and decreased dynamic and expressive properties. According to the memoirs of his contemporaries, this caused a sharp rejection of the composer: "When Stravinsky first came to one of our rehearsals and heard his music being played, he boiled over, pushed the German pianist away [...] and continued the piece twice as fast as we did, and twice as fast as we could dance […] He stamped his foot on the floor, pounded his fist on the piano, sang and shouted, all in order to let us feel the rhythms of the music and the colors of the orchestra," − recalled a participant in the first production of the play [8, p.499].

Stravinsky praised Massine's choreographic version as "incomparably clearer than Nijinsky's production" [9, p. 71]. The composer admitted: "Massine not only grasped the character of the work with amazing insight but also invented a new dance image for The Rite of Spring. Massine does not follow the music in his choreography, which is called 'note to note'" [10, p. 31]. However, even here, the rhythmic features of Massine's choreography caused the composer's disapproval: "Massine's choreography was too gymnastic and farcrosian to please me" [9, p. 152].

In the future, Massine repeatedly turned to the production of The Rite of Spring and also staged The Firebird (1945), Petrushka (1958), and Les Noces (1966). Massine's productions to Stravinsky's music also include Ragtime (1921) and Capriccio (1948).

Collaboration with Paul Hindemith

Massine experienced fruitful cooperation with the composer Paul Hindemith on the ballet Nobilissima Visione (The Most Glorious Vision, 1938). As the composer and choreographer recounted in their memoirs, the images that inspired them in this work were Giotto's frescoes from Florence's Santa Croce. Even in his youth, the topic of spiritual formation was of great concern to the choreographer (the unfulfilled idea of Liturgy). Thanks to the initiative of Hindemith, Massine again turned to create a "spiritual ballet." In an effort to convey the "simplicity and spiritual purity of St. Francis' life" [2, p. 200], Massine enlisted the help of not only the sublime music of Hindemith but also the artist Pavel Tchelitchew.

The ballet was composed in the summer of 1938 on the island of Gallov, where the composer came at the invitation of Massine and for several weeks lived and worked with him. The development of the concept took place in an incredibly fruitful creative atmosphere: "I described the scene as I saw it, improvising the choreography so that Hindemith could present it visually more easily. Then he carefully developed the melodies and later played some of the liturgical choirs on the piano, as he decided to build the score mainly on early French religious music, in particular, belonging to the great fourteenth-century composer Guillaume de Machaut" [2, p. 200].

The composer did not leave everything in the hands of the choreographer during the production rehearsals: "When we started rehearsing Nobilissima visione in Monte Carlo, Hindemith joined us and came to every rehearsal to give me advice on the choreography. He played the score and explained the structure of some musical phrases, especially the complex and difficult ones" [2, p. 201]. The ideal union of music and visual art is reflected in the naming of the ballet score: the composer prefaced the work with the author's title Tanzlegende in 6 Bildern von Paul Hindemith und Léonide Massine (A dance legend in 6 paintings by Paul Hindemith and Léonide Massine). Nobilissima visione became a work that guided the choreographer to develop the means to embody complex philosophical ideas.

In 1939, Massine and Hindemith conceived two more new ballets: Der Kinderkreuzzug (The Children's Crusade) and Symphonic Metamorphosis, for which pieces from Carl Maria Weber's opuses 10 and 60 were selected. However, both theater projects remained unfulfilled [11, p. 382], and Hindemith later published his score in the form of an orchestral piece, Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (1943).

Means of music as objects of visual interpretation

Throughout his creative life, Massine paid special attention to the expressive means of music, which along with paintings, greatly influenced the formation of the choreographer's artistic style and found a multi-faceted representation in plastic and visual interpretations.

Timbre. Even as a child, Massine showed an extraordinary sensitivity to sound's timbre color. Massine's book of memoirs is filled with the sounds of life. In childhood, "minus" is the voice of the mother, repeating her choral parts, and the "soft, clear timbre" of the sound of the father's French horn [2, p. 17]. This is the singing of birds ("I liked to listen to the singing of birds more than to hunt" [2, p.21]), and "the ringing of the bells of the Monastery of St. Sava" [2, p. 23], and the timbres "resonating," and even "shaking the chandeliers" of the voices of the dramatic actors of the Maly Theater, and even the musical sound of a horse-drawn carriage that brought the choir soloists to the theater [2, p. 18].

Massine had already singled out timbre as one of the main elements of synthesis in his earliest works, combining plastic and musical expressiveness. So, when planning his first ballet Liturgy, Massine made sure that the floor of the stage space resonated well and that the dance rhythms and the sound of footsteps were listened to by the audience, for which a special coating of a unique sonorous ("sonore") dried oak was laid [1, p. 38]. In the ballet Midnight Sun (Soleil de Nuit) (1915, to the music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov), the dancers/buffoons knocked on the stage with knobbled sticks, and Massine himself, portraying the main character of the performance, added his own rhythm to the orchestral part, hitting the cymbals.

In the ballet Parade, created in collaboration with Satie, the composer willingly supported the choreographer's interest in the stage interpretation of unusual timbres: he introduced the howl of a siren and a spinning wheel, the clatter of a typewriter, and gunshots into the score. Equally attractive to Massine's plastic interpretations are Prokofiev's timbre finds in Le Pas d'Acier (The Steel Step), where the real battle of hammers on the stage merge with the orchestra and the rotation of transmissions, flywheels, light signals, and choreography, where groups simultaneously work on machines and present the choreographic work of these machines [12, p. 5.].

The rich palette of Pulcinella became an occasion for Massine to create a detailed plastic drama, thanks to which Boris Asafyev described Stravinsky and Massine's joint creation as a "continuous instrumental plastic dialogue." "The ballet's instrumental color is transparent and lyrically expressive: the 'soul' of each instrument and its inherent character is reflected in each phrase. Here, even more than in Petrushka and Bike, and no less than in The Soldier's Tale (L'Histoire du Soldat), the instruments become the actors of a cheerful comedy: they are duplicated by the characters on the stage, and in turn, they reflect everything that happens there in a mirror" [13, p. 263].

Later, the timbre element in Massine's work acquired a special meaning in ballet symphonies in the context of complex musical and choreographic plans. So, in the Choreartium (1933, to the music of four symphonies by Brahms), through the dialogue of groups of woodwind and string instruments, the choreographer conceived the participation of a pair of soloists-dancers ("she" – strings, "he" – wood), reinforcing the lines of timbre-intonation with a visual pattern [1, p. 148].

Rhythm. Massine's interest in the rhythmic side of musical-rhythmic synthesis was equally intense. As early as 1917, while studying the Baroque choreographic heritage, the choreographer came up with new forms of coordination of sound and movement based on varying rhythm and tempo: "Working on variations, I started from the records of eighteenth-century dance, drawing new body movements in my imagination, based on rhythmic possibilities and varying in accordance with the nature of movement, rhythm, and tempo in order to achieve the greatest expressiveness of the choreographic composition" [2, p.77–78].

The period of joint work with Igor Stravinsky was marked by special attention to the problem of musical-rhythmic relations. The composer and the choreographer equally sought to achieve unity, but it was manifested in freedom and not total uniformity. Stravinsky urged: "The time has come to completely move away from the correspondence of dance to the eights, double eights, tact, etc." [10, p. 32]. Appreciating Massine's work on The Rite of Spring, the composer wrote: "In our interpretation, the dance corresponds only to whole periods. I could not find a better person to implement these ideas than Massine [10, p. 32]. He, if you like, sometimes even refuses the prescribed clock features but always keeps the rhythm. […] It matches the music better than simple note-to-note calculation, which, by the way, was a mistake of the old choreography. At some points, it deliberately reinforces this discrepancy, and at others, it weakens it. […] The choreography is a free-from-music construction" [10, p. 31].

The choreographer maintained and developed an interest in rhythmic experimentation in the following years, mastering the technique of rhythmic variation perfectly. For example, when performing the Symphonie Fantastique, the rhythmic counterpoint of Hector Berlioz's score was combined by Massine with the complex counterpoint movement of groups of dancers [1, p. 151].

Tempo and dynamics Massine's rhythmic beginning became the most important component of the dynamic solution of the performance. As A. Levinson noted, describing the choreography of the ballet The Good-Humoured Ladies: "The Massinesky style can be defined as a perpetuum mobile, where there is a movement for every note, a gesture for every sixteenth, as a non-stop bustle, which gives rise to a breathless rhythm and cheerful animation in the ballet" [Cit. on 1, p. 49].

This interpretation of the rhythm aroused Stravinsky's approval and energetic support. Defining the special "dynamic" nature of the composer's musical language (based on the concept of musical dynamism, considered in the Asafiev projection of the formation of musical form), I. Vershinina pointed to the "activation of specific dynamic elements of music," which turned into "dynamic" elements of self-valuable carriers of musical content [14, 1967, p. 214]. It was in the interpretation of rhythmic-dynamic means and tempo, which greatly affect the dynamic quality of music perception, that Stravinsky was most demanding in his work with choreographers (let us recall in this connection once again the composer's unyielding desire to preserve the author's tempo and dynamics in his work with Nijinsky). And the dynamics of tempo interactions were one of the cardinal points in Massine's work in Pulcinella: Stravinsky thought of the plot ballet as a dynamic, tempo action, which was in harmony with the choreographer's innovations, as S. Naborschikova noted in this regard [15, p.92]. "The extreme dynamism of the action" [1, p. 153] became one of the essential aspects of Massine's style. Such plastic combinations gave rise to a "specific Massinesky impetuosity," which, according to the researchers, is perfectly combined with Stravinsky's tempo dynamics. "Stravinsky traditionally complained about their [tempo] slowness when dealing with other choreographers. In the case of Massine, this irritant was absent," as stated by Naborshchikova [15, p. 92].

Formation of the image of a choreographic symphony

During his talent's heyday and true independence, Massine turned to the most complex and deep musical ideas. Turning to the music of large-scale symphonic works was the result of long artistic work for the choreographer. Massine's significant musical and plastic ideas were embodied in the 1930s in the form of "monumental in structure" ballet symphonies: Omens (Les Présages, 1933), Choreartium (1933), Symphonie Fantastique (1936), Seventh Symphony (1938).

The question of the embodiment of the music of symphonic genres in plotless ballet was very relevant for the choreographic art of the first third of the twentieth century. Inspired by the experiments of Isadora Duncan, the music of symphonic works was addressed by Mikhail Fokin (Preludes, 1913), Alexander Gorsky (Symphony No. 5 to the music of Alexander Glazunov, 1916), En Blanc (to the music of the Third Suite by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, 1918). The ballet symphony, as a new genre in which the complicated dance would develop "through a transformation in the symphonic development" [16, p. 155]), in conjunction with the music of a deep large-scale work, acquiring a plastic form in the dance symphony of The Magnificence of the Universe by Fyodor Lopukhov. In this production, set to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven's Fourth Symphony (Boris Asafyev called Lopukhov's ballet an enthusiastic statement of dance symphonism [17, p. 169]), the choreographer tried to achieve the "ideal of choreographic creativity" – a close contact between musical and dance symphonism [18, p.58].

In the future, the ballet symphony genre received artistic reinforcement and development in the works of George Balanchine (starting with Serenade, shown in New York on March 1, 1935). However, since Lopukhov's work was forgotten after a single performance, and Balanchine's ballets received worldwide recognition only much later, Massine declared himself in the genre of choreographic/ballet symphony in 1933–1938 and deserves the credit for establishing this genre on the European and world stage.

The creation of a series of ballet symphonies refers to the period of the choreographer's work in the Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo company. The new trend in Massine's work was natural in line with the intense attention that the choreographer showed to the musical art and its means. Massine mentions in his memoirs that the idea of the ballet symphony captured him in 1931 when he was stunned by the immensity and perfect beauty of the destroyed Temple of the Titans in Selinunte (Sicily), thinking about the possibility of creating an equally grandiose and perfect creation. Having become aware that such a task could only be realized if the great composer's symphony was used as a source of inspiration for the choreography [2, p. 182], two years later, Massine turned to Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony.

A new type of choreographic work led to the development of new means of choreographic expression and forms of ballet drama. In the development of his first ballet symphony, Omens (Les Présages), Massine drew on the symbolic design and compositional structure of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. The theme of the confrontation between man and the fatal force, embodied in the sound of the music, became the basis of the dramatic solution of the play. The ballet acquired a compositional structure "similar to the musical form of the symphony" [2, p. 186]: "I decided to follow the movements of the symphony in the logical development of choreographic phrases, expanding them and regrouping them into new drawings," the choreographer recalled [2, p.186].

For the next work in the ballet symphony genre, Choreartium, Massine chose Brahms' Fourth Symphony. Here the visual design was free from any symbolic images. The choreographer found inspiration in the formative means of the music itself: "Although, on the whole, I was satisfied with Les Présages, I realized that I was too carried away by the expressed theme, and wanted to try myself in a more abstract choreographic interpretation" [2, p.189].

Massine's third work in the ballet symphony genre emphasized the dramatic brightness and visual theatricality of the music. Based on the music of the Symphonie Fantastique, the new ballet was conceived based on the program of the same composition by Hector Berlioz. Here, as the choreographer noted, he managed to combine "abstract choreographic passages with a romantic and melodramatic plot" [2, p. 197]. Stage solution of the Seventh Symphony: The music of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony was also rich in narrative elements and symbolism. In this work, the choreographer gave a visual interpretation to the philosophical understanding of the picture of the world's birth. Inspired by the images of Beethoven's music, Massine depicted the elements of Earth, Air, and Water, created by the Spirit of the Universe.

Musical drama as a source of artistic renewal for choreography

The performances of Massine's ballet symphonies sparked a lively discussion about the possibility of using choreography to convey the meaning of serious symphonic music. Many contemporaries highly appreciated the choreographer's musicality and ingenuity in working with music: "Massine gave the symphony an external, visual embodiment and thereby attracted thousands and thousands of new fans to the immortal music of Brahms," noted choreographer A. Chuzhoy in 1937 [19, p. 110]. Others expressed more ambiguous opinions about Massine's compositional and plastic methods of following the musical unfolding. Very critical were, for example, the statements of the British composer and conductor Constant Lambert, who wrote: "I should have thought that a person who imagines that the second performance of a symphonic theme can be represented as the reappearance of a certain dancer, or that the jumps corresponding to each note are an adequate choreographic reading of the theme that came to the composer's mind as a whole, shows a terrible lack of musical sensitivity" [Cit. by 20, p. 138]. However, the weight of the opinion of the English critic Ernest Newman, who confirmed the persuasiveness of Massine's musical and choreographic analogies, ended the discussion in favor of the choreographer: "The fact that some parallelisms are much more complex than others, and, therefore, have not been implemented so far, is not a reason for denying such a choreographic genius as Massine the right to try them […] Reasonable action when viewing Choreartium is not to concentrate hard on what is purely musical in music, and, therefore, alien to this or any other action, but to grasp and enjoy those many moments in music that can be reflected by analogies in choreography [...] This is a truly extraordinary way in which Massine has given us a reinterpretation of the symphony's hundred musical features in a choreographic modality" [20, p. 139].

Massine himself, accepting the reproach for the somewhat immaturity of his symphonic experiments of the 1930s ("this was only a hint, a glimpse," noted the choreographer in an interview in 1974 [21, p. 28]), later expressed the opinion that the most important result of his work on ballet symphonies was the comprehension of the possibilities of music, contributing to overcoming the limitations of his own art. "It was an aspiration similar to that of a young man who is in a cramped space, like in a square box, and feels that his imagination extends much further, and he wants to get out of this impasse," recalled Massine [21, p. 28]. For the choreographer, turning to the genre of the ballet symphony marked a new approach to the development of forms of synthesis. Music, its laws of composition and drama, was a resource that contributed to the development of the intellectual element in Massine's choreography and ultimately served to update and enrich his style: "I establish the relationship of several elements, my instruments, those that the body possesses. There are not as many of them as in the orchestra, in music, but they are enough to create the most interesting compositions" [21, p. 28].

Massine presented a theoretical summary of his artistic discoveries in the course of his choreographic composition development (for the Royal Ballet School in London, where he taught from 1968 to 1976) and in the monumental work Massine on Choreography: Theory and Exercises in Choreography, published in 1976.

Unlike George Balanchine, who for decades built the relationship between choreography and musical drama into a fundamental principle of theatrical production, Massine regarded the path of abstract dance, the dance symphony, as only one of many possible ways in which he realized his search for a new visual art. The experience of familiarizing himself with the secrets of musical composition and the drama of symphonic music opened up new horizons of artistic vision for the choreographer. Looking into the meanings of music, revealed in dialogue with choreography, sharpened the choreographer's attention to the self-worth of his own art, its articulatory-plastic, visual, rhythmic, and compositional means, opening up new areas of expressive possibilities of theatrical dance: "For the first time in the history of all ballet, I came to the conclusion that the totality of movements, directly, has its own harmony, just as in music. And the achievement of this harmony is the main goal of all artistic work" [21, p. 32].

It is difficult to overestimate the importance that Léonid Massine's artistic achievements had for the world of ballet theater and the development of the musicality of choreography.

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