I composed this Nocturne for Harp Alone in memory of Kenneth MacKenzie, ballet dancer and choreographer. He performed with ballet companies including the original Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, the Ruth Page Ballet, in the Broadway production of Carousel, and choreographed shows. I was inspired to compose this piece during my five years of ballet classes with Nina Stroganova, his wife.
Kenneth MacKenzie took class with us every day, and was wont to rhapsodically strike poses or gestures of pure romantic expression from time to time between exercises. He explained that as a pupil of Laurent Novikoff and Adolf BoIm, he had a direct link to the time of Berlioz and the Romantic Movement. As a danseur in the Ballets Russes, he performed in the ballets of that period in its pure style.
Nina Stroganova, herself a ballerina with the Ballets Russes (and with other companies such as Ballet Theater and the Mord kin Ballet), was also schooled in the pure style of classical ballet through her teacher Olga Preobrajenska, and in coachings by Olga Spessivtzeva and Michel Fokine. Her classes always featured adagio exercises in the style of Fokine, Nijinska, and other great choreographers, to music from Chopin (Les Syiphides, the Piano Concerto, the Etudes and Preludes), Sarasate, Franck or other such composers. Her classes took place in the theatrical environment of the rehearsal studios of the City Center Theater in Manhattan. An interesting mix of older students and professionals from the foremost dance companies were in attendance, and we learned to be expressive and to dance with softness, while maintaining or acquiring extremely strong technique.
When Nina had to be away from time to time, Kenneth would take over the class, or sometimes gave the adagio. We were thus exposed to his fascinating creations to movements from Haydn piano sonatas, to the Adagio from Bach’s Italian Concerto, to Couperin’s organ music, Satie’s Three Gymnopedies (his last completed work), and other fine music. His choreography took form in characters such as a Reformation preacher, in pure flowing movement of subtle intricacy and difficulty, and as a ballet on the theme of St. Francis to music by Messiaen and Couperin. Unfortunately, as some of the older students complained about his choreography, he was dissuaded from continuing, to the great chagrin of the rest of us. Some of his work may have been captured on video... and remains at least engraved in memory. It was a wonderful lesson to those few who saw it with their own eyes.
This nocturne explores in sound the world of the romantic spirit: the supernatural, the dream state in the natural world, the grim and the radiant, much like a ballet such as Giselle. In fact, the melody in sixths is directly inspired by the Adagio from Adolphe Adam’s Giselle. The music draws on multiple sources of inspiration from other periods as well, and it was not easy at all to put together. Something as simple and subtle as selecting the right inversion for the opening chords was crucial to establishing the context in which the rest of the piece could exist. The left hand is required to be particularly eloquent, the right hand emotionally expressive and beautiful in the most soulful kind of way. Even though a rubato feel is called for, this effect must be used with restraint. Clear rhythm must be established first and foremost throughout the piece.
Emotional expression in performing art is not of the memory and brain. It is not sentiment or feeling, it is not personal expression and choice. It comes from deep within the spirit and soul, and when unblocked, exudes from gesture, from pores, from eyes. I would recommend the study of old ballet film, and especially the photographs in character of Nina Stroganova, Tamara Toumanova, Tamara Karsavina, Alicia Markova and other ballerinas, and ballerinos such as Anton Dolin, Erik Bruhn, and such, for inspiration. You will find some photographs of Nina Stroganova in my website gallery, at sauldavis.com. Now you may begin your own dangerous journey into the unknown and the timeless.
The Nocturne is dedicated to Somna M. Bulist, an imaginative and creative performer with the harp who is an inspiration and constant friend.
Saul Davis Zlatkovsky is a professional harpist and composer residing in Philadelphia. He pursued harp studies at Tanglewood, Manhattan School of Music, and the Salzedo School. He studied composition with Dr. Alvin King (a pupil of Hindemith and Honegger), and his compositions were played by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra as part of a residency at Macalester College.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Macalester, and a Master of Music degree in Harp from Manhattan School of Music. He studied with Alice Chalifoux at the Salzedo School in 1983, and with Lucile Lawrence at Tanglewood in 1980 and at the Manhattan School of Music from 1981-84, continuing further instruction with her privately. He performed in her last master class, held in Philadelphia in 2003.
Mr. Davis grew up in Minneapolis, in a creative family whose interests ranged from poetry and literature to art and many kinds of music. His father is a piano and recorder teacher as well as a composer.
He was honored with the premieres of two of his compositions for harp at the 2004 conference of the American Harp Society at the University of Pennsylvania. His American Pictures: Prairie Night, opus 39, no. 1, was performed by Emily Halpern Lewis, Boston University harp faculty. The works Prairie Night and Villanesca are available from Da Costa Music House.
His Suite Provencalo pus 34, written for harp duo, received its premiere at the Curtis institute. The performance by Sonja Wangensteen and Piper Runnion-Bareford, coached by the composer, led to Mr. Davis receiving an ASCAPIus award in recognition of the performances and merit of his works.
Mr. Davis was commissioned by the Simpson-Flanagan Harp Duo to create an arrangement of the Mozart Concerto for Flute and Harp as a concerto for flute and harp duo.
His choral work, Haven, a setting of a poem by Bradley Steffens, was premiered at Mayflower Church of Minneapolis. He has premiered on his recital programs his Prelude in memoriam Carlos Saizedo and his own transcriptions of pieces by Galles, Prokofiev and others.
His solo harp pieces include Barcarolles, Interludes, Sonatas and the American Pictures series, comprised of Prairie Night, Prairie Morning and Colrain Meadow (this one for harp quartet). He has arranged some 85 French folk-song settings, composed folkioric solos such as Russian Dance, Iberian Fantasy, boleros and a series of Sephardic folk-song settings.
Works in other genres include Adon 0/am for voice, Shiof, Mayn Feygele for cello and harp and a group of art songs: The Balloon, The Ratless Cat, / Met My Solitude (for two voices and harp), all set to poems by Naomi Replansky; Chasidic Suite for violin and harp, works for oboe and flute and harp, and Portrait in Rhapsody for trombone and harp.
Mr. Davis is a member of ASCAP, ASTA, the American Harp Society and the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia; he is listed in Penn Sounds, a biographical dictionary of Pennsylvania composers. He accepts commissions for new or completed compositions, editing, transcriptions, arrangements, songwriting as well as writing on harp and performing arts topics. More information can be found on his website www.sauldavis.com.
He teaches harp privately, also coaching professional harpists and talented youth. He taught in New York on the faculties of the Roosa School of Music, the Brooklyn Conservatory or Music and the Hebrew Arts School.
He recently founded Performing Arts Traditions, a nonprofit organization and the Harp Music Festival of Philadelphia, with a website at www.harpmusicfest.com. The Festival is holding its inaugural season in 2007, with plans to continue every Memorial Day weekend in Philadelphia.
|Title:||Nocturne for harp|
|Composer:||Saul Davis Zlatkovsky|
|Level:||Intermediate to Advanced|
|Size:||11" x 8.5" (US Letter)|
|Publisher:||Editions Harpiana Publications|