Ludwig Minkus


(23. March 1826 - 7. December 1917)The fires of the French Revolution had scarcely flickered out when the bright flame of the Romantic movement began to illuminate and transform the arts in Europe.First kindled by the German giants Beethoven and Goethe, it swept through France (when it shone perhaps the brightest), Italy, Great Britain, Russia and Scandinavia. In France within 30 years the whole concept of music and literature was changed, with Berlioz, Chopin and Liszt (the last two a Pole and a Hungarian who naturally gravitated to Paris as the centre of the musical world), and Balzac, Dumas, Hugo and Gautier as the first great leaders there.And the Romantic movement in ballet was born in Paris on November 21, 1831. Appropriately enough, it was brought into being by a kind of flame, for it was on that date that the new gas - jets, suspended above the stage (to give the first true overhead lighting) were used for the first time. The occasion was the premiere of Meyerbeer's opera Robert le diable, and the new lighting was used for a ballet sequence in the opera, in which white - clad ghosts of dead nuns rose from their tombs and danced a Valse infernale in eerie moonlight. Such an amazing success was this episode - it became overnight the talk of Paris - that the tenor, Adolphe Nourrit, who was singing the title - role of Count Robert, wrote a scenario for a new ballet with a supernatural story, La Sylphide, and offered it to the man who had choreographed the Valse infernale, Filippo Taglioni. Taglioni`s daughter Marie, who had lead the nuns in the opera - ballet, created the role of La Sylphide. There followed a spate of ballets with supernatural themes of which the most famous was, and always will be, Giselle in 1842.Four year after the creation of Giselle a young musician arrived in Paris from his native Vienna. He was 19 years old and he had with him his violin, on which he was a minor virtuoso, and some of his compositions for violin and orchestra. His name was Aloisius Ludwig Minkus. He must also have brought with him a good deal of personal charm and strong recommendations for he was very soon offered a complete ballet score to compose. However, because of his extreme youth, the offer was reduced to one act, and the rest of the ballet, Paquita, was entrusted to an older, more experienced ballet composer, Deldevez. The music of Minkus' act has survived, and when one has taken away the most obvious Soviet Russian additions one finds music that is artlessly charming and delightfully similar to Adam's simplest ballet music. Within six years Minkus was invited to Russia where he became an orchestral conductor and a violin soloist and teacher. A long association with the Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow, as violin soloist and later conductor, began in 1861. He maintained his association with Paris where in 1866, 20 years after his debut there, he himself was the older, more experienced musician to write the larger part of a ballet of which one act only was entrusted to the younger Delibes, La Source.On returning to Russia Minkus began to write ballet music for Petipa's creations. There was in Russia at that time a post of Official Composer to the Imperial Ballet, held for many years by the Italian, Cesare Pugni. Pugni, who had composed music for more than 300 ballets, retired in 1867. The following year Petipa planed his Don Quixote for the Bolshoi theatre, the music to be composed by Minkus. It had enormous success when first performed, in 1869, and its popularity has remained world - wide to this day, in spite of many alterations, additions and adaptations both to Petipa's choreography and to Minkus' music. Its success won for Minkus the post of official composer which he held until it was discontinued in 1886.These were his most fertile years, to which among many other ballets belongs La Bayadère (1877). Soon after 1886 Minkus retired to his native Vienna where he lived until 1917.