The event: The first full rehearsal for the premiere of Mark Morris’s Mozart Dances, the centerpiece of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival.
The principals: Music director Louis Langrée, Morris and his dance company, and the pianist Emanuel Ax, collaborating as a group for the first time.
The date: August 8, 2006.
Mark Morris (left): “This is predominantly a women’s dance to the slow movement, the larghetto, of Concerto No. 11—the men make a guest appearance. Manny said that he didn’t understand what was happening for the last hour because I was speaking in a secret language [laughs]. I’ve seen him play a bunch of times but never sitting next to him. It’s wonderful; every time I look over at the keyboard, he’s looking at me like, ‘How’s that?’ and I’m like, ‘Wow, I don’t know, play it again, it sounds so nice!’ I forbade Louis to conduct at all. I wanted the dancing to register on him, and then we’ll do the music bits. And, well, there’s nothing more I can tell you, because I haven’t finished it yet.”
Louis Langrée (center): “The second movement of the eleventh concerto—I wouldn’t have imagined it like that, but it is beautiful. It is like something very distant, probably slower than what I would have done; musically, it will be more vertical, like a Swiss clock. As soon as you start to beat with your arm, you are just leading, but when you are just listening, it’s another part of your brain that’s working. Today is more for me to integrate what I see with what I imagine the sound of the orchestra, the shape, the phrasing.”
Emanuel Ax (right): “Mark is refining things like the cadenzas in the concertos, where I have to get the timing he wants. It’s quite easy because he’s so incredibly musical—just musically logical. Watching the physical expression of pieces you’ve known for a long time is incredibly illuminating. He probably would have been a fabulous conductor if he weren’t a dancer.”