American Masters http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters A series examining the lives, works, and creative processes of outstanding artists. Fri, 24 Apr 2015 20:10:37 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.4 en hourly 1 American Ballet Theatre: Company History http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/american-ballet-theatre/company-history/3853/ http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/american-ballet-theatre/company-history/3853/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 13:50:22 +0000 knightc http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/?p=3853 Antony Tudor receives a testimonial watch from impresario S. Hurok after an all Tudor program at the Metropolitan Opera with Nora Kaye looking on. 1945.

Antony Tudor receives a testimonial watch from impresario S. Hurok after an all Tudor program at the Metropolitan Opera with Nora Kaye looking on. 1945.

American Ballet Theatre (ABT) is recognized as one of the great dance companies in the world. Few ballet companies equal ABT for its combination of size, scope, and outreach. Recognized as a living national treasure since its founding in 1940, ABT is the only major cultural institution that annually tours the United States. Over its 75-year history, the company has appeared in all 50 states and also made more than 30 international tours to 50 countries as perhaps the most representative American ballet company. It has been sponsored by the State Department of the United States on many of these engagements.

amms-abt-programcover1939 – 1979

When American Ballet Theatre was launched in the autumn of 1939, the aim was to develop a repertoire of the best ballets from the past and to encourage the creation of new works by gifted young choreographers, wherever they might be found.

Under the direction of Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith from 1940 to 1980, the company more than fulfilled that aim. In the 1950s, the company represented American dance and culture in two major undertakings: it was the first major American company to tour continental Europe after World War II (1950) and the first ballet troupe to perform abroad under the auspices of the State Department (1953).

In 1960, American Ballet Theatre became the first company to tour the USSR. The company’s sold-out performances there ran from September 13 to October 23.

ABT’s repertoire, perhaps unmatched in the history of ballet, includes all of the great full-length ballets of the 19th century, such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Giselle, the finest works from the early part of the 20th century, such as Apollo, Les Sylphides, Jardin aux Lilas and Rodeoand acclaimed contemporary masterpieces such as Airs, Push Comes to Shove and Duets.

In acquiring such an extraordinary repertoire, ABT has commissioned works by all of the great choreographic geniuses of the 20th century: George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp, among others.

1980 – 1991

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Robert La Fosse rehearsing with John McFall in his ballet Follow Your Feet. 1983. Photo: MIRA

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Robert La Fosse rehearsing with John McFall in his ballet Follow Your Feet. 1983. Photo: MIRA

In 1980, Mikhail Baryshnikov became Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre, succeeding Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith. Under his leadership, numerous classical ballets were staged, restaged and refurbished, and the company experienced a strengthening and refining of the classical tradition. In 1990, Jane Hermann and Oliver Smith succeeded Baryshnikov and immediately established an agenda that was dedicated to maintaining the great traditions of the past while aggressively pursuing a vital and innovative future.

1992 – present

Antony Tudor coaching Kevin McKenzie in his ballet Jardin Aux Lilas. 1986. Photo: Paul B. Goode.

Antony Tudor coaching Kevin McKenzie in his ballet Jardin Aux Lilas. 1986. Photo: Paul B. Goode.

In October 1992, former American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Kevin McKenzie was appointed Artistic Director. McKenzie, steadfast in his vision of ABT as “American,” is committed to maintaining the company’s vast repertoire, and to bringing the art of dance theater to the great stages of the world.

Over its 75-year history, the company has appeared in a total of 136 cities in 45 countries, and has appeared in all 50 states of the United States. In keeping with ABT’s long-standing commitment to bring the finest in dance to the widest international audience, the company has recently enjoyed triumphant successes with engagements in Abu Dhabi, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Havana, Tokyo and Beijing.

On April 27, 2006, by an act of Congress, American Ballet Theatre became America’s National Ballet Company®.

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American Ballet Theatre: Preview American Ballet Theatre: A History http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/american-ballet-theatre/preview-american-ballet-theatre-a-history/3638/ http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/american-ballet-theatre/preview-american-ballet-theatre-a-history/3638/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 21:20:19 +0000 knightc http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/?p=3638 View full post to see video)

American Masters teams up with Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns to co-produce a new documentary about American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in honor of the ballet company’s 75th anniversary.

American Masters – American Ballet Theatre: A History premieres nationwide Friday, May 15, 2015, at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

Delving into the rich history of one of the world’s preeminent ballet companies, Burns combines intimate rehearsal footage, virtuoso performances and interviews with American Ballet Theatre’s key figures: artists pivotal to the company’s formation, including Alicia Alonso and the late Donald Saddler and Frederic Franklin; contemporary luminaries, including dancers Susan Jaffe and Julie Kent, choreographer Alexei Ratmansky and artistic director Kevin McKenzie; past and present stars Misty Copeland, Gillian Murphy, Marcelo Gomes and Hee Seo; dance historian and author Jennifer Homans; and prominent dance critics Anna Kisselgoff and the late Clive Barnes. The film will be available July 14, 2015, from PBS Distribution.

“The story of American Ballet Theatre, and the breathtaking rise of dance in the U.S. over the last three-quarters of a century, is one of the most inspiring stories in the cultural world,” says Burns. “Ballet is the most poignantly ephemeral and expressive of all the arts, both earthbound and transcendent. And ABT, indisputably one of the greatest dance companies in the world, has torn down an incredible number of barriers, welcoming choreographers of every kind and dancers from around the world.”

“As we approach our 75th year, it is a tremendous honor to have Ric Burns and American Masters illuminate ABT’s history in such a rich and meaningful way,” said Rachel Moore, CEO of American Ballet Theatre. “I am certain the expertise and care Ric and his team have devoted to this film will offer a fresh perspective on our art form and serve as a fitting testament to this cultural institution.”

American Masters – American Ballet Theatre: A History chronicles the rise of the company from its earliest days as a small, financially struggling collective, to its pinnacle as one of the most respected and revered dance companies in the world. Beginning film production in 2006, Burns was given unprecedented access to the company and shot hundreds of hours of original footage, including dramatic live performances in Paris and Havana, grueling rehearsals at ABT’s flagship studio in New York City and slow-motion captures at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli, N.Y.

The footage from Kaatsbaan features iconic dances by nine ABT dancers, including Copeland, Murphy, Seo, Gomes, Isabella Boylston, Herman Cornejo, Daniil Simkin, Joseph Gorak and Cory Stearns, chosen by McKenzie for their diversity and breadth of talent to illustrate the ABT dancers’ formidable technicality, intricate artistry and nuanced emotion. Shot by Emmy-winning cinematographer Buddy Squires and a 30-person crew using Phantom Flex cameras — which capture up to 2,500 frames per second and brings to life even the smallest of movements — the footage brings a new dimension to the understanding of the extraordinary efforts made in the perfection of form: from the delicate placement of a fingertip to the perfectly executed jeté.

Combined with hundreds of carefully curated stills from archives across the country and rare footage of ballet icons Alonso, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille, Antony Tudor, Nora Kaye and Mikhail Baryshnikov, American Masters – American Ballet Theatre: A History provides a comprehensive inside look at American Ballet Theatre and the world of professional ballet.

“Ric has created an entertaining film that will touch and transform both seasoned aficionados and those who never have seen a ballet,” says Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters.

Launched in 1986, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. Now in its 29th season on PBS, the series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel.

American Masters – American Ballet Theatre: A History is a production of Steeplechase Films, Inc. and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s American Masters for WNET. For Steeplechase Films: Ric Burns is director. Bonnie Lafave and Katie O’Rourke are producers. Mikaela Shwer and Emily Williams are editors. Chih Hsuan Liang is assistant editor. For American Masters: Susan Lacy and Michael Kantor are executive producers.

Funding for American Masters – American Ballet Theatre: A History is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Rosalind P. Walter, Lewis Ranieri, Madeline Eckett Oden, Ruth and Harold Newman, Jody and John Arnhold, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Kitty Hawks and Larry Lederman, and The Lewis “Sonny” Turner Fund for Dance. American Masters is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rhoda Herrick, Vital Projects Fund, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Jack Rudin, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, and public television viewers.

About WNET

As New York’s flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore App where users can stream PBS content for free.

About Ric Burns & Steeplechase Films

Steeplechase Films is the award-winning production company founded by Ric Burns in 1989. Over the past two decades, it has become one of PBS’ most trusted and honored collaborators, making a mainstay of bringing quality programming to public television and redefining the way audiences engage with American history. Director, writer and producer Ric Burns began his career co-writing and producing the celebrated PBS series The Civil War (1990) and has since directed over 30 hours of award-winning films, including Coney Island (1991), The Donner Party (1992), The Way West (1995), Ansel Adams (2002), Eugene O’Neill (2006), Andy Warhol (2006), We Shall Remain: Tecumseh’s Vision (2009), New York: A Documentary Film (1999-2003), Death and the Civil War (2012) and Enquiring Minds (2014). 2015 will see the release of American Ballet Theatre: A History, Debt of Honor: Disabled Veterans in American History and The Pilgrims.

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Percy Sledge Interview: An In Memoriam Tribute http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/about-the-series/percy-sledge-interview-an-in-memoriam-tribute/3851/ http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/about-the-series/percy-sledge-interview-an-in-memoriam-tribute/3851/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:18:20 +0000 knightc http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/?p=3851 (View full post to see video)
On the evening of his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, R&B singer Percy Sledge (1940 – 2015) was interviewed for American Masters – Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built (2007). In this film outtake, Sledge recollects growing up in Leighton, Alabama, his love for Elvis Presley and country singers, and his youthful musical performances. Sledge, whose best known classic hit is “When a Man Loves a Woman,” died on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was 73.

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Jascha Heifetz: Estrellita, Heifetz’ Encore Song http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/jascha-heifetz/estrellita-heifetz-encore-song/3849/ http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/jascha-heifetz/estrellita-heifetz-encore-song/3849/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 21:58:34 +0000 knightc http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/?p=3849 (View full post to see video)
When he was on world tour, Jascha Heifetz liked to include music on the program by a composer of the country in which he was performing. In 1923 he was in Mexico City and realized he didn’t have any work by a Mexican composer. While in a cafe there, he heard a local musician sing a popular song written by Manuel Ponce called Estrellita (My Little Star). He took notes on his napkin and that night, composed an arrangement for violin and piano based on the song. It became one of his favorite encores.

In this film outtake, Ayke Agus, Heifetz’ former student and master assistant, performs the arrangement on piano.

The one-hour documentary American Masters — Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler premieres nationwide Thursday, April 16 at 8 p.m. and Friday, April 17 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

Major market premieres include Thursday, April 16 at 8 pm on WTTW11 in Chicago and WHYY-TV in Philadelphia and 10:30 pm on THIRTEEN in New York, and Friday, April 17 at 8 pm on KERA in Dallas, 8:30 pm on WETA TV 26 in Washington, D.C., and 9 pm on PBS SoCal in Los Angeles, on KQED in San Francisco, on WGBH 2 in Boston and on Houston Public Media.

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Jascha Heifetz: Book Excerpt from Jascha Heifetz: Early Years in Russia: His Carnegie Hall Debut http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/jascha-heifetz/book-excerpt-from-jascha-heifetz-early-years-in-russia-his-carnegie-hall-debut/3847/ http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/jascha-heifetz/book-excerpt-from-jascha-heifetz-early-years-in-russia-his-carnegie-hall-debut/3847/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 20:34:05 +0000 knightc http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/?p=3847 Jascha Heifetz: Early Years in Russia, by Galina Kopytova. Translated and edited by Dario Sarlo and Alexandra Sarlo. Indiana University Press, 2014.

Jascha Heifetz: Early Years in Russia, by Galina Kopytova. Translated and edited by Dario Sarlo and Alexandra Sarlo. Indiana University Press, 2014. 504 pages.

Sixteen-year-old Jascha Heifetz’s American debut, Carnegie Hall, October 27, 1917

Book excerpt courtesy of Indiana University Press. All rights reserved.

On the day of Jascha’s American concert debut, people filed into the building until they were turned away: “The audience that witnessed the debut at Carnegie Hall Saturday afternoon was not only very large,” wrote Pitts Sanborn in the Commercial Advertiser and Globe, “but notable for the number of professional violinists it included—apparently every disengaged man and woman in town that ever drew a bow for money.”

According to a report in the Violinist journal, the many prominent violinists present at the debut included: Fritz Kreisler, Mischa Elman, Maud Powell, Franz Kneisel, Sam Gardner, David Hochstein, David Manner, Nathan Franko, Albert Greenfeld, Leopold Lichtenberg, Geraldine Morgan, Louis Siegel, Sam Franko, Gustave Saenger, Emily Gresser, Edith Rubel, Edwin Grasse, Helen Ware, Maurice Kaufman, and Victor Kuzdo.

With such an intense atmosphere developing in the auditorium, Jascha’s experienced pianist, André Benoist, began to feel a little nervous: “no matter how inured one may be to such occasions, it is almost impossible to remain entirely indifferent to them. I must confess that, in spite of many experiences of the same kind, I felt a bit aflutter myself.” It seems, however, that Jascha did not share the feeling of nervousness. As Benoist recalled: “When I reached the old Green Room at the hall, I found Mama and Papa Heifetz sitting about, as calm and unconcerned as if they were about to witness a Christmas party. As for Jascha, he ran up to me in high glee and said, ‘Look! Look! Fine long pants! Fine cutaway coat! Fine new necktie! I look fine, no?”

When the time came, Jascha walked out onto the stage to face an electrified public, and a deafening wave of applause broke out all around. As a reviewer in The World noted: “Some measure of the advance estimate in which this Russian youth is held was shown when he first appeared before his anxious throng. No sooner was he sighted than a wave of applause sounded through the big auditorium: a greeting so spontaneous, so sincere as to cause the seasoned concertgoers to exclaim involuntarily.” Jascha started with the Vitali Chaconne, with organ accompaniment provided by Frank L. Sealy, and as one reviewer noted, “long before the completion of the Vitali Chaconne it was apparent that a master violinist superlatively endowed had come to disclose the measure of his worth.” After each subsequent piece, the delight and excitement in the audience continued to grow. Jascha then played the Wieniawski Concerto no. 2, Schubert’s Ave Maria, Mozart’s Minuet, Chopin’s Nocturne in D, the Beethoven Chorus of Dervishes and March Orientale, Tchaikovsky’s Melodie, and the Paganini Caprice no. 24. Another reviewer noted that “this boy was establishing new violin marks; that in every department of his art he was the superior of any fiddler this country has known in at least fifteen years.” It was at this debut that a very well-known anecdote between a famous violinist and pianist came to life: “It’s hot here, isn’t it?” said Mischa Elman to Leopold Godowsky, who was sitting in the same box. “No, Mischa. Not for pianists,” Godowsky quickly responded.

The calm and unconcerned behavior of Jascha’s parents before the debut attested to the unwavering faith they had in their young son’s incredible talent. After all, they had seen and heard him conquer every stage on which he had set foot, throughout the Russian Empire and Europe. Just as elsewhere, the crowd in Carnegie Hall cheered and applauded and rushed the stage at the end of the recital. In this sense, Carnegie Hall was just one more venue to add to the burgeoning list of accomplishments in Jascha’s career. His overwhelming success on October 27, 1917, however, provided him a special place in the hearts and minds of the American public, and ultimately resulted in the family’s decision to remain in the United States. Political circumstances far out of their control had led the Heifetzes to make the epic journey to New York, leaving behind the country that had raised Jascha and contributed to the formation of his musical character. With years of preparation behind him, Jascha was ready for this next stage of his life.

Certainly, this move was not easy for Jascha. He left behind the country that had been his home, and he left behind many friends: people from the conservatory, including Glazunov, who had facilitated the family’s stay in St. Petersburg-Petrograd; Viktor Valter, his constant supporter; beloved Professor Auer, the man responsible for Jascha’s artistic training; and Kiselgof, who had worked tirelessly to broaden Jascha’s education. The Heifetzes also left behind the Sharfsteins, who would eventually join the Heifetzes in the United States, but not for another five years. Others in the wider Heifetz family ended up staying in Russia, including Natan and Fanny and their daughter Lyusya, Ruvin’s other siblings, and Jascha’s grandparents. Some of these people Jascha would never see again.

Despite the sacrifices, if Jascha and his parents needed proof that they had made the right choice, back in Petrograd, just days after the debut in New York, the Bolsheviks seized power in the October Revolution (on November 7 in New York City, but October 25 in Petrograd). A lengthy and brutal civil war ensued. No one in Russia knew how and when the situation would end. The Heifetzes, at least, were safe in the New World.
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The one-hour documentary American Masters — Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler premieres nationwide Thursday, April 16 at 8 p.m. and Friday, April 17 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

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Jascha Heifetz: Heifetz Concerts for 1923 Japan Earthquake Victims http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/jascha-heifetz/heifetz-concerts-for-1923-japan-earthquake-victims/3843/ http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/jascha-heifetz/heifetz-concerts-for-1923-japan-earthquake-victims/3843/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 20:27:36 +0000 knightc http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/?p=3843 (View full post to see video)
Jascha Heifetz traveled to Japan in the fall of 1923, weeks after the earthquake on September 1 that devastated Tokyo, Yokohama and the Kanto region, with casualties near 143,000. He gave outdoor performances there and also gave benefit concerts to benefit Japan. He was a forerunner among musicians to do relief work. In this film outtake, see Heifetz’ own film footage of traveling in Japan in October 1923.

The one-hour documentary American Masters — Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler premieres nationwide Thursday, April 16 at 8 p.m. and Friday, April 17 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

Major market premieres include Thursday, April 16 at 8 pm on WTTW11 in Chicago and WHYY-TV in Philadelphia and 10:30 pm on THIRTEEN in New York, and Friday, April 17 at 8 pm on KERA in Dallas, 8:30 pm on WETA TV 26 in Washington, D.C., and 9 pm on PBS SoCal in Los Angeles, on KQED in San Francisco, on WGBH 2 in Boston and on Houston Public Media.

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Jascha Heifetz: Music from the Film: Heifetz Recordings http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/jascha-heifetz/music-from-the-film-heifetz-recordings/3835/ http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/jascha-heifetz/music-from-the-film-heifetz-recordings/3835/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 19:39:28 +0000 knightc http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/?p=3835 Jascha Heifetz-1970_credit-RCA

Music from Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler

To serenade you for 84 minutes, American Masters has created a playlist of 21 recordings by Jascha Heifetz, all of which are among the compositions heard in the film Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler. Hear music by Debussy, Paganini, Prokofiev, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Wieniawski, Schubert, Saint-Saëns, Dvořák and more.

A note to the user: you’ll have to sign up for a Spotify account to listen, but it’s a free service.

American Masters – Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler premieres nationwide Thursday, April 16 at 8 p.m. and Friday, April 17 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

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