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RODERIC DUNNETT writes about 'Arthur Part 1: Arthur Pendragon'
in the light of the recent London première


Whatever one feels about the dramatic impact of Arthur, the latest collaboration between leading British choreographer David Bintley and the accomplished Liverpool-born composer John McCabe (born l939), it is, certainly in one sense, another triumph for both the composer and Bintley's company, the impressive Birmingham Royal Ballet.

David Justin as Uther Pendragon and Joseph Cipolla as Merlin. (c) Bill CooperFor it reflects, vastly to BRB's credit, Bintley's commitment not just to new work, but to working with contemporary composers in the very front rank. McCabe's output embraces the whole range : his chamber and especially piano works (he is himself an outstanding, effectively virtuoso, performer of both new and classical repertoire) spanning four decades are among the finest by any British composer. In addition to his symphonies and orchestral works (the Variations on a Theme of Hartmann, for instance), his sequence Notturni ed Alba, for soprano and orchestra, had placed him in the very front rank by the time he was 30.

Arthur is Bintley's second collaboration with McCabe. Two years ago his Edward II, equipped with a challenging score from McCabe of quite extraordinary power as well as alluring beauty, proved one of the most exciting ballet events of the second half of the 20th century, placing Birmingham - alongside groundbreaking companies like Stuttgart, the Danish Royal Ballet and Australian Ballet - firmly in the fold of those capable of delivering fresh, original and riveting new work. Hyperion's well-timed recent recording of Edward II, moreover, offers the chance to savour in its own right the range of ensemble and solo writing in McCabe's endlessly absorbing score.

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Copyright © 12 June 2000 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK


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