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This elegant, neo-classical work, Mr. La Fosse's third for New York City Ballet, is for two couples and a corps of 16. Mirroring its score, a 1934 piece that Strauss based on the music of French composer François Couperin (1668-1733), Danses de Cour is an inventive homage to the past. Mr. La Fosse calls it "a ballet of tributes. Just as Strauss borrowed from a Baroque composer, so I wanted to evoke the spirit of a French Baroque court."
Strauss' (1864-1949) Op. 86 Divertimento is based on the music of François Couperin (1668-1733). In fact, it was his third Couperin adaptation. The first, titled Dance Suite (1923), transcribes 19 of Couperin's harpsichord pieces, and was originally performed as a ballet. The second, suggestively titled Verklungene Feste (Bygone Festivities, 1940) was a wartime digression — Strauss was cut off from the opera house — consisting of the Dance Suite plus six new movements again intended as a ballet. The Divertimento, a concert work conceived shortly afterward, uses these six added movements plus two more. Clemens Krauss, who godfathered both Verklungene Feste and the Divertimento by requesting further Couperin arrangements after the style of the Dance Suite, conducted the first performance with the Vienna Philharmonic on January 31, 1934.
Known as Le Grand, Couperin was the most important French composer between Lully and Rameau. Though his output included much church and chamber music, he is mainly remembered as a composer for solo harpsichord. His four volumes of Pieces de Clavcin consist of some 230 miniatures, often programmatic in nature (and hence doubtless attractive to Strauss), and organized into 27 orders or suites. Strauss' Divertimento uses 16 such Couperin pieces, drawn from Orders 3, 5, 14, 15, 18, 20, 22, 24 and 25. This ballet uses 13 of these pieces.
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