By Steve Sucato for GroundWorks DanceTheater
For GroundWorks DanceTheater’s very first collaboration with CityMusic Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, the company has created a dance-on-video work to accompany the live performance by CityMusic musicians of composer Olivier Messiaen’s poignant masterwork, “Quatuor pour la fin du temps” (Quartet for the End of Time). The work is part of CityMusic Cleveland‘s Justice, Equality, Hope Chamber Music Series program Transcendence, which will be presented on Sunday, February 27 at The Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus.
Composed by Messiaen while a French army World War II prisoner-of-war at Stalag VIII-A in Görlitz, Germany, the 50-minute “Quatuor pour la fin du temps” for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, debuted at the prison camp on January 15, 1941, for an audience of some 400 prisoners and German officers.
He started the composition with movements that referenced passages from his earlier works and added five new movements written in the camp. Each movement of the score relates to the apocalyptic Book of Revelation vividly depicted in The Cloisters Apocalypse, an illuminated manuscript from around 1330.
Messiaen later said of the Stalag VIII-A performance, “Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension.”
GroundWorks DanceTheater Executive Artistic Director David Shimotakahara, the video project’s director/choreographer, here talks about this unique collaboration with CityMusic Cleveland and the creation of a dance-on-video work to Messiaen’s music.
How did this video project come about?
CityMusic Pianist Donna Lee proposed the collaboration. Donna told me she always wanted to see something done with movement to that piece of music [“Quatuor pour la fin du temps”]. She had it in her mind it would be a wonderful dimension to add to their performance of it. CityMusic Cleveland Executive Director, Eugenia Strauss agreed, and she contacted me about it. I am truly grateful to them both for this creative opportunity.