George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Liebeslieder, Op. 52 (1869) and Neue Liebeslieder, Op. 65 (1874)
Photo © Paul Kolnik
For this two-part ballet of waltzes, the dancers are joined on stage by the musicians and singers. The music, for piano duet and vocal quartet, is set to poems by Friedrich Daumer and Goethe. The dancers are dressed in period ballroom costumes. During the first set of 18 waltzes, the four couples dance in interweaving combinations in an intimate, elegant ballroom. For these dances, the women wear dancing slippers. After a brief lowering of the curtain, the couples return to dance 14 waltzes, the women wearing ballet dresses and pointe shoes. They leave the stage, returning in their original costumes, then pause to listen to the final waltz set to Goethe’s words: “Now, Muses, enough! You try in vain to portray how misery and happiness alternate in a loving heart!” Within the strict three-quarter beat, personal and romantic associations between the couples develop. Of Liebeslieder Walzer, Balanchine said: “In the first act, it is the real people who are dancing. In the second act, it is their souls.”
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was born inHamburg,Germany, and became popular as a pianist and conductor. Though living in the days of the romantic composers, his work was always in the classical mold. He composed almost exclusively instrumental music, including four symphonies, concertos, and a wide variety of chamber music.