“Alae” is a full-length work, an evening’s performance for one pianist and three dancers, together engaging with Beethoven’s magnificent piano music. The work is an artistic convergence between Örjan Andersson and New York-based interpreter of Beethoven Per Tengstrand, one of Sweden’s most successful musicians on the international concert stage. “Alae” was created using three of Beethoven’s sonatas as a springboard. The work was premiered at Växjö Konserthus in a co-production with Regionteatern Blekinge Kronoberg in September 2017 and has toured Sweden via Dancenet Sweden. Örjan Andersson and Andersson Dance have been creating works for and given guest performances at Dansens Hus for more than 20 years and this work sees them return to the main stage, Stora Scen. In autumn 2015, Andersson Dance premiered the celebrated work “Goldberg Variations – ternary patterns for insomnia” here. Alea draws on Per Tengstrand’s interpretations of three Beethoven sonatas and the performance evolved from conversations and discussions with Per.
“His life with the sonatas and the pictures and memories they conjure up in performances around the world have become the working material for me and the dancers,” says Örjan Andersson. “I am fascinated by how we listen to music and what the pictures create from that listening.”
For his own company Andersson Dance, Örjan Andersson creates choreographic works, often with a focus on live music. His choreography focuses on the body’s inherent possibilities and limitations – in everything from large, live music works to opera, to text-based works and explorations of classical music. He is known for combining different stage performers such as actors, opera singers, musicians and dancers, bringing them together to work in harmony and to communicate using the same physical language.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770. His grandfather was an admired court kapellmeister and his father an alcoholic singer at the same court. Beethoven was not a child genius, but his father still attempted to market him as “the new Mozart”. When Beethoven travelled to Vienna as a self-confident young man, he had high ambitions for himself. However, it was first as a virtuoso pianist and improviser that Beethoven made his name. Only later, mainly when his hearing began to fail, and he was performing as a pianist less and less, did he make a name for himself as the foremost composer in Europe, particularly with piano sonatas such as the “Appassionata” and the “Moonlight Sonata”. In his final years he was virtually stone deaf, but he continued to compose. His late works were not understood in his own time and many people thought his deafness meant he was incapable of understanding what he was composing. But as we can hear in this programme, which incorporates his penultimate piano sonata, Op. 110, the last years of his life up to his death in 1827 were those in which Beethoven composed perhaps the most beautiful and most creative music he ever wrote.
Per Tengstrand on the music in the performance:
“In Sweden the fantastic sonata in D Minor, Op. 31 No. 2 is known as the “Ghost Sonata”. In the rest of the world, it is known as “The Tempest” after a story that might or might not be apocryphal. Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s assistant, asked the composer about this sonata and was told ‘Read Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and you will understand it’. The incredibly charged beginning of the sonata has the listener on tenterhooks from the very start, and the hypnotic finale is full of movement and energy.
The “Appassionata” is possibly the darkest of all Beethoven’s piano works. It utterly screams desperation, sometimes on the verge of madness. It feels deeply personal, and was also Beethoven’s favourite sonata until he wrote the Hammarklavier Sonata. Even today, the ultra dynamic beginning with its sudden outbursts is shocking, as is the tumultuous finale.
Sonata Op. 110 is the penultimate of Beethoven’s thirty-two sonatas. Beethoven’s art has now reached greater heights than ever before, and the emotional journey through the sonata is filled with religious symbolism. The loving first movement is followed by a kind of absurdist scherzo, both humorous and dark in tone. This is succeeded by a musical miracle in which the sections merge into each other without a break, first in a painfully beautiful lament that blends with the fugue in which the music recovers its vitality. The sonata ends in ecstatic triumph.”