The prima ballerina assoluta and wife of our composer Rodion Shchedrin died in Munich on 2 May at the age of 89. She was one of the most important dancers of our time and had maintained friendly contacts with the Schott publishing house for many years. In 2000, she founded with her husband the Mainz-based International Maya Plisetskaya and Rodion Shchedrin Foundation. As part of the Foundation’s work, she established the Maya Plisetskaya Award, among others, which is awarded to up-and-coming talents in the fields of dance, composition and interpretation; this year’s recipient will be the choreographer Gil Roman. In 2009, Schott Music published the second part of her memoirs “Haltung bewahren” in which she takes a very personal look back on an unparalleled career and her journey through life.
Unlike any other dancer, Maya Plisetskaya embodies the great tradition of the classical ballet, combining in her art technical precision, subtle gestures and a unique power of expression. Her career began in 1943 at the Bolshoi Theatre where she soon became the prima ballerina and performed all major roles until 1989, including her trademark piece in Camille Saint-Saëns’s “The Dying Swan” in almost 20,000 performances.
“Time puts everything in its place. You just have to wait long enough”, Maya Plisetskaya once said. Her life was closely tied to the political situation in her home country of Russia. Born in 1925, she was born to a family of many artists. Her father was executed under Stalin’s regime in 1938, her mother was deported to Khazakhstan. Labeled a “daughter of an enemy of the people”, she was not allowed to tour with the Bolshoi Ballet in the USA until years after Stalin’s death. Thanks to her fast international career she was able to hold and support artistically independent opinions and bring Western choreographers like Maurice Béjart to the Bolshoi Theatre. Long after her retirement from the stage, Béjart still wrote pieces for her, the last being “Ave Maria” which she danced at the age of 70. For the ballet music works of her husband Rodion Shchedrin whom she married in 1958, she even created her own choreographies and performed the leading roles, as in “Anna Karenina“ and “Die Möwe/The Seagull“.
“How she danced then! It was a miracle. A bundle of energy, self-assurance personified. When she danced, she put a spell on the whole audience”, this is how Shchedrin described his impression of a visit to her performance. Although officials of the Soviet regime advised him against a relationship with the dancer, the two exceptional artists became a couple and worked and lived together for almost fifty years. Most recently, they divided their lives between Munich and Moscow.
Anyone who knew Maya Plisetskaya admired her unfaltering strength of opinion, her gracefulness and charm. We, the managers and the entire staff of Schott Music, will remember her in admiration, gratefulness and friendship.
On 15 May, a memorial concert “in Memoriam Maya Plisetskaya” will take place in Lucerne during which this year’s Maya Plisetskaya Award will be presented. The concert will be performed by the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra LSO under the direction of the principal conductor James Gaffigan.
photo: © 2011 The Moscow Kremlin / Presidential Executive Office