Robbins takes the classical pas de deux to new heights in Four Bagatelles, a light-hearted but exhilarating jaunt for two virtuosos.
Jerome Robbins’ Four Bagatelles, initially created for a gala in May 1973, is set to a selection from Beethoven’s bagatelles, or short piano pieces, which he published in three sets. Three of Robbins’ choices are from Seven Bagatelles (Op. 33, Nos. 4, 5, and 2, in order of performance), the first set to be published, which included very early compositions. The fourth piece in the ballet is from Six Bagatelles (Op. 126, No. 4), which were among the composer’s final works. Beethoven’s bagatelles were extremely concise, but the best of them amply show the composer’s ability to build complexity of structure and emotional texture. Robbins’ Four Bagatelles, originally performed by Violette Verdy and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, uses the piano pieces to showcase spacious movement and quicksilver footwork within the traditional structure of a pas de deux.