Magazine article Gramophone

David Bintley: The Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet on Playing the Double Bass, His Stravinsky Obsession and Working with Composer Sally Beamish

Magazine article Gramophone

David Bintley: The Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet on Playing the Double Bass, His Stravinsky Obsession and Working with Composer Sally Beamish

Article excerpt

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Both my parents had been good pianists when they were young, and my dad had his own jazz band. They used to rehearse at our house and when I was very little I'd sit beneath the drum. My mum was in the band as well--she'd jump between piano and bass. I started learning double bass at school but I couldn't get anywhere close to her standard. I learnt piano too, but when it's your parents teaching you, it starts getting personal. I persuaded them I was too busy dancing to carry on. I bitterly regretted that later, of course.

At 11 or 12, I saw Petrushka and got very into Stravinsky. I remember an art lesson at school when we brought in records so we could 'paint' the music. Most people brought in pop music--I chose The Rite of Spring. The riot at the premiere was nothing compared to the riot in that class! I choreographed my first amateur piece at the age of 16 to The Soldier's Tale. I was already realising that being a choreographer was of far greater interest to me than my activities as a dancer.

The greatest thing is working with a composer and commissioning new work. Nothing comes close to collaborating for that length of time: a new ballet is often two or three years in the making. You're conspirators, no one knows what's happening except the two of you--and sharing it makes it even better than working on your own.

It always starts with an idea--that's what leads me to a particular composer. With Cyrano, I'd commissioned a score from Wilfred Josephs for the 1991 production but it didn't really work out. Having known Carl Davis's work for a long time, I suddenly realised--here's someone who can rescue that piece. That's how we came to do the second version of Cyrano in 2007. And from that, Aladdin came about. I had no desire to do that ballet, but once I heard Carl's music I changed my mind.

I'd wanted to do The Tempest for more than 30 years, but it was only when I heard Sally Beamish's music on Radio 3's Composer of the Week back in 2012 that I realised she was the composer to make it happen. I thought, I've been missing someone here--so I carried on listening to the programme for the rest of the week. I knew I wanted to work with her, so I contacted her and everything just came together. …

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