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Horoscope. Ballet Suite


Lambert composed four ballets of his own—Romeo and Juliet in 1924–6 (the first ballet commissioned by Diaghilev from an Englishman; Lambert was twenty), Pomona (1926), Horoscope (1937) and Tiresias (1950/51). Romeo and Juliet and Pomona are still in thrall to the Stravinsky of Petrushka and Pulcinella, while Tiresias, remembered by Tom Driberg as a score of ‘strange and wild beauty’, was unpublished and unperformed until recorded by Hyperion in 1998. Horoscope is the most traditional, and for that reason no doubt the most popular of these ballets. The ‘tradition’ is that of Tchaikovsky and thence of the pre-war Diaghilev Russian Ballet. When Lambert says of Tchaikovsky that in a work like Swan Lake he’d managed to reconcile the physical and classical demands of the dance with the emotional and romantic demands of the story, he could easily be describing his own achievement in Horoscope; and if romantic or lyrical elements predominate we need look no further than the name of the dedicatee for the reason. Margot Fonteyn and Lambert had a close relationship for a number of years, and there is surely no harm in suggesting that in the last movement of Horoscope, ‘Invocation to the Moon and Finale’, the strength of their love is both attested and immortalised.

Lambert provided the following statement of the ‘theme’ of his ballet: ‘When people are born they have the sun in one sign of the Zodiac, the moon in another. This ballet takes for its theme a man who has the sun in Leo and the moon in Gemini, and a woman who also has the moon in Gemini but whose sun is in Virgo. The two opposed signs of Leo and Virgo, the one energetic and full-blooded, the other timid and sensitive, struggle to keep the man and the woman apart. It is by their mutual sign, Gemini, that they are brought together, and by the moon that they are finally united.’

Horoscope was first produced at Sadler’s Wells in January 1938. Ashton was the choreographer, Michael Somes danced the Man, Fonteyn the Woman; Lambert himself conducted. It was typical of Lambert’s involvement in all artistic aspects of his work that for the cover of the published scores (orchestral and piano) he arranged for a horoscope chart to be specially drawn by Edmund Dulac. The concert suite accounts for about two-thirds of the complete score (25 minutes out of 35).

from notes by Christopher Palmer © 1990


Lambert: Horoscope; Bliss: Checkmate; Walton: Façade


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