Interview with Robert Irving, July 6, November 23, and December 6 and 22, 1976
NamesIrving, Robert, 1913-1991 (Interviewee)Tobias, Tobi (Interviewer)
Dance Oral History Project
Dates / OriginDate Created: 1976-07-06Date Created: 1976-11-23Date Created: 1976-12-06Date Created: 1976-12-22
Library locationsJerome Robbins Dance DivisionShelf locator: *MGZT 5-435 (former)Shelf locator: *MGZTO 5-435
TopicsIrving, Robert, 1913-1991 -- InterviewsLambert, Constant, 1905-1951Balanchine, GeorgeGraham, MarthaAshton, Frederick, 1904-1988New York City Ballet. OrchestraSadler's Wells BalletRoyal BalletNew York City BalletMartha Graham Dance CompanyMusic and danceConductingPerforming arts -- AudiencesMusicians -- Labor unionsDancers -- Labor unions
NotesBibliographic history: Title supplied by cataloger.Source characteristics: Sound quality is good. There is extraneous noise including "tape hiss" and occasional short gaps. However, the speakers' voices are clear and easily intelligible.Venue: Recorded for The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 1976, July 6, November 23, and December 6 and 22 New York (N.Y.)Funding: The conservation and cataloging of this recording was made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The support of the National Endowment for the Arts is also gratefully acknowledged.
Physical DescriptionAudiotape reelExtent: 2 audiotape reels (approximately 4 hr., 46 min.) : analog, 1.875 ips, quarter-track; 5 in.
DescriptionStreaming file 1, July 6, and November 23, 1976 (approximately one hour and 38 minutes). Robert Irving speaks with Tobi Tobias about his family background; his early musical training including an anecdote about George Dyson; his time at Winchester College; his initial ambitions to be a pianist and to compose; an anecdote about Albert Coates; his time at [New College at] Oxford University and the Royal College of Music; learning how to conduct; Constant Lambert; the beginning of his relationship with Sadler's Wells Ballet [now the Royal Ballet]; his military service during World War II; working with the BBC [Symphony] Orchestra in Glasgow; the circumstances of how he came to be a conductor at Sadler's Wells Ballet; Ninette de Valois; the company's American debut, in 1949; the ABT [American Ballet Theatre] replica of Sadler's Wells Ballet's The sleeping beauty [end of July 6 session and beginning of November 23 session]. Irving speaks with Tobias about the threatened strike by the New York City Ballet Orchestra; Frederick Ashton as a choreographer; ballets that were not successful including Tiresias; Margot Fonteyn; touring by train in the United States; working with Fonteyn; his friendship with Leslie Edwards; the audiences [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file 2].
Streaming file 2, November 23 and December 6, 1976 (approximately one hour and 38 minutes). Robert Irving continues to speak with Tobi Tobias about ballet audiences including his views on mid-performance applause; the circumstances of his leaving the Royal Ballet for the New York City Ballet; conducting for ballet including the fluid relationship between the orchestra and the dancers; the high standards for music at New York City Ballet, in particular as compared with other ballet orchestras; the prejudice against conductors who conduct for ballet performances [end of November 23 session and beginning of December 6 session]. Irving speaks with Tobias about the threatened labor action at New York City Ballet; George Balanchine and his profound understanding of music; Irving's approach to tempi over the years, including an anecdote about Concerto barocco; his thoughts on the phenomenon of choreographers modifying and rearranging scores, as for example Frederick Ashton in his work The dream; Balanchine's musical choices in Midsummer's nights dream; observations about Balanchine as a person and as an artist including; Balanchine's and Martha Graham's joint work Episodes; New York City Ballet's repertory including works by choreographers other than Balanchine and Jerome Robbins; composers and music that are very difficult to choreograph to, for example Ravel's music for Daphnis et Chloé; some of Irving's favorite compositions [used for ballets in the New York City Ballet repertory]; ballets set to solo piano compositions, for example Jerome Robbins' Dances at a gathering, In the night, and Goldberg variations; Robbins' work Watermill; Irving's views on dance performed without music; working with Robbins including as compared to working with Balanchine; the division of responsibilities with the company's other conductors including Hugh Fiorato; rehearsals; the high level of classical musicians [in orchestras] in the United States; his nickname "the Duke;" his own working style; stage disasters [ends abruptly but continues on streaming file 3].
Streaming file 3, December 6 and 22, 1976 (approximately one hour and 30 minutes). Robert Irving continues to speak with Tobi Tobias about stage disasters; the dancers including their training and level of musicality [end of December 6 session and beginning of December 22 session]. Irving speaks with Tobias about the special concerns of conducting for ballet; New York City Ballet's Stravinsky festival and Ravel festival; reminiscences of Stravinsky; the affinity between Stravinsky's music and Balanchine's choreographic style; working with Martha Graham including as compared with working with Balanchine; Graham and her company [Martha Graham Dance Company] including the repertory and changes in the company's composition; discussion of the company's future; his personal life including his interests in horse racing, bridge, and mountaineering; Betty Cage; Lincoln Kirstein including Kirstein's relationship with Clive Barnes; dance criticism; reflections on his own composing and on conducting outside of the ballet world; the ongoing labor action at New York City Ballet.
Type of ResourceSound recording
IdentifiersRLIN/OCLC: 79681891 NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b12118271Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): a54a5550-b2a6-0133-3c5a-60f81dd2b63c
Rights StatementThe New York Public Library holds or manages the copyright(s) in this item. If you need information about reusing this item, please go to: http://nypl.org/permissions
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