Juilliard Students & the New York Philharmonic Perform Ravel’s Bolero While Social Distancing in Quarantine

Like every­one else in COVID-19 iso­la­tion, Juil­liard stu­dents are itch­ing to get out and play. For them, the desire is a lit­tle more of an imper­a­tive. With­out meet­ing and rehears­ing togeth­er, these ded­i­cat­ed artists at the begin­ning of their careers can’t hone their skills. “In nor­mal times,” writes Ben­jamin Sosland at the Juil­liard Jour­nal, “Juilliard’s halls are buzzing with col­lab­o­ra­tions: string quar­tets, jazz ensem­bles, and singers rehears­ing in prac­tice rooms on the fourth floor; dancers cre­at­ing new chore­og­ra­phy on the third floor; HP stu­dents embell­ish­ing bass lines togeth­er in Room 554, the main harp­si­chord stu­dio; actors doing ensem­ble work in the leg­endary Room 301.”

Social dis­tanc­ing has been a sac­ri­fice for these artists, but rather than give it up, they’ve made the best of things with the edit­ed col­lab­o­ra­tion just above, Bolero Juil­liard. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that this is a col­lage of indi­vid­ual per­for­mances, even though that’s exact­ly what we see before our eyes.

The move­ments are so well chore­o­graphed, the per­for­mances so pitch per­fect­ly timed, that we sus­pend our dis­be­lief. We do not hear the flubbed lines, missed cues, sour notes, and cracked jokes that must hap­pen at even the high­est lev­els of per­for­mance. But you too would put your best foot for­ward if you knew you’d be per­form­ing (in a sense) with such illus­tri­ous Juil­liard alum­ni as Yo-Yo Ma, Lau­ra Lin­ney, Pat­ti Lupone, and Itzhak Perl­man, all of whom make an appear­ance.

“Pro­posed by [Juil­liard] Pres­i­dent Dami­an Woet­zel and under the artis­tic lead­er­ship of chore­o­g­ra­ph­er… Lar­ry Keig­win,” Sosland reports, the vir­tu­al col­lab­o­ra­tion brings togeth­er “dancers, instru­men­tal­ists, singers, actors, and alum­ni” in a ver­sion of an in-per­son piece Keig­win has staged in 14 cities around the U.S. over the past sev­er­al years. Mau­rice Ravel’s Bolero is itself “a par­tic­u­lar­ly col­lab­o­ra­tive com­po­si­tion in that it pass­es the melod­ic theme through a series of solos,” Grace Ebert writes at Colos­sal. “The sequen­tial per­for­mances high­light the dis­tinct tones and sounds of each instru­ment, whether it be a flute, vio­lin, or the anom­alous sax­o­phone.”

It is a piece that direct­ly express­es the expe­ri­ence of play­ing togeth­er in iso­la­tion, which is per­haps why the New York Phil­har­mon­ic also chose to play Bolero, togeth­er while apart in a video trib­ute to “the health­care work­ers on the front lines of the COVID-19 cri­sis.” With­out the intense chore­og­ra­phy and painstak­ing mon­tage effects of Bolero Juil­liard, the video doesn’t sus­tain the illu­sion that these musi­cians are actu­al­ly play­ing togeth­er, but close your eyes and you may imag­ine you’re in the audi­ence, lis­ten­ing to them from the stage instead of from their homes. It’s some­thing these musi­cians clear­ly do joy­ful­ly, out of grat­i­tude and love of their art… and also prob­a­bly because it’s how they’ll have to play togeth­er for the fore­see­able future.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear a 1930 Record­ing of Boléro, Con­duct­ed by Rav­el Him­self

Live Per­form­ers Now Stream­ing Shows, from their Homes to Yours: Neil Young, Cold­play, Broad­way Stars, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Operas & More

The Met Opera Stream­ing Free Operas Online to Get You Through COVID-19

Metal­li­ca Is Putting Free Con­certs Online: 6 Now Stream­ing, with More to Come

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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