The Atlantic Serial: Sergei Diaghilev

NICOLAS NABOKOV, who was born in St. Petersburg in 1903, is the talented son of a family which was known for its liberalism under the lost of the Tsars, His study of music, begun at an earls’ age, was resumed at the Beilin Conservatory after the Revolution, and his first ballet-oratorio, Ode, was produced by Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe in Paris and London in 1928. As an impressionable boy, he had heard the singing of Chaliapin and the playing of Rachmaninov and young Heifetz, and had seen the dancing of Pavlova and Karsavina. Name in his creative years, he was to work under the stimulus of Diaghilev and in growing friendship with Stravinsky. Prokofiev, and Koussevitzky. This is the first of a three-part portrait of the man in whose workshop has music came to life.

1

I DO not know how my mother came to devise the plan of transforming her children into a string quartet, but I remember that when I was eight and already sufficiently housebroken on the piano, I received on my saint’s day (which, owing to the fortunate collusion of the Emperor’s and my own first names, was a national holiday) a reddish, freshly lacquered, three-quarter-sized cello.

My older sister Onia, who lost the S of her name with the loss of her front milk teeth, had already been playing the violin for several years, and my brother Mitya (short for Dimitri) had recently added one hour a week of screeching on the viola to his former two hours a day of piano and violin. Thus everyone was ready to receive me, the celloplaying brother, as the next step in the formation of the projected string quartet.

I started taking lessons with an elderly member of the Imperial Court Orchestra, whose name was Ossip Ossipovitch Piorkovsky or Oss’ Oss’ch, as he was known to me. Despite his Polish name and exuberantly Polonized mustachios (which drooped over his mouth and which, because of frequent immersions in soups and sauces, had acquired a permanent ocher halo like the pollen-covered pistil of a lily), Oss’ Oss’ch was a Russian patriot, a foe of things foreign (in particular, German), and a firm believer in the superiority of Russian music, Russian musicians, and Russian culture, He did not go so far as to ascribe the invention of the cello to Russian genius, but he did insist — with barely perceptible hesitancy—that Daviclov and Verjbelovitch, the two Russian cellists of the beginning of this century, were the first and finest in the world and that hi ft Russian method of teaching me how to play the cello was superior to any other.

As a result of this method or of my own inadequacies, it took me two and a half years to graduate to a whining performance of Radi’s Aria for the A String, which I gave on the occasion of my mother’s birthday in 1914.

The reaction to my first public appearance was a mixed one: condescendingly warm in the parental age bracket, and openly adv erse if not hostile among my contemporaries. Throughout mv performance I caught glimpses of my brother and my two cousins Pavlik and Alyosha Diaghilev making faces at each other. It all ended, of course, in an eruption of tears and sobs which my mother, Oss’ Oss’ch, and my Aunt Carolina tried to stem by telling me that I played like a real prodigy.

It had, however, one tangible result: soon after, I was taken into the family string ensemble as an alternate to Alyosha, equally a cellist and pupil of Oss’ Oss’ch. He and his violinist brother Pav lik had been playing quartets with my own brother and sister for more than a year.

True enough, I was at first permitted to join the string ensemble only when it played easy transcriptions of Haydn or Mozart symphonies. My mother would then take over the piano part and I would play the part of the double bass. This consisted mainly in counting empty bars and entering at the up and down beats of loud passages. But even, so, every time the piece was marked allegro or presto, I would get hopelessly lost, miscount empty measures, miss cues, and enter with great vigor and dubious intonation at the worst possible moment.

One late afternoon we had been practicing the Second Quartet by Borodin, in which the slow movement starts with an oozy, sentimental melody in the high register of the cello. After I had made several attempts to produce tins melody, resulting each time in a kind of intestinal wail, my brother and sister became exasperated and decided to throw me and my cello out of the room into the long dark corridor which wormed its way all around our St. Petersburg apartment. I resisted and soon there was a sen die in which the instruments began to play an unusually active role. I used the back of my cello to beat my sister over the head. Her head proved stronger than my cello, which flew to bits.

Several weeks after this incident (for which all three of us were duly punished), my mother and Oss’ OssYh took me to the store of the lutenist Geissler and bought me a new instrument: a less crimson, larger, and far more expensive version of my first one.

2

BY THIS time our family siring ensemble had permanently absorbed the “Diaghilev brothers” outfit, and as a result of this merger we became an embryonic string orchestra. This was a case of the lean cows eating the fat ones without getting either fatter or better, for our own quartet could certainly not compare either in quality or in quantity with the Diaghilev ensemble—to which, besides Pavlik, Alyosha, and their mother, belonged three other young men, cousins or friends of the Diaghilev family, and three of our mutual teachers.

Thus in the aul umn of 1815 my sister, my brother, and I started to go every other Saturday afternoon to the Diaghilevs’ for rehearsal. The Diaghilev family consisted of Uncle Valya, or Valentin Pavlovitch Diaghilev, a short, stocky colonel with a large head and lips; his wife, the gentle and sickly Aunt Dasha; and their three sons: our confreres Pavlik and Alyosha and their ten-year-old brother Kolya, as yet untrained in playing chamber music.

The drawing room of the Diaghilev home was usually prepared in advance to receive us. The furniture had been moved against the walls; the chairs and stands were set up, and the music parts were arranged on the racks. We would unpack our instruments and tune up in the protracled, noisy way in which all amateurs, and especially children, prepare themselves for their instrumental battles. Then, after much sneezing, nose-blowing, and coughing, the practice would begin.

Uncle Valya, although not a musician at all (he taught defensive engineering at the same military academy where the famous composer and less famous general, Cesar Cui, taught the art of fortification two seemingly overlapping and by now I assume obsolete subjects), was our most fervent admirer. When we played, his round face glistened with pleasure. At times when we successfully overcame a particularly perilous passage, he would shout at us: “Well done, boys! “ as if we had finished scaling a mountain under heavy artillery fire.

At other times, usually before intermission, which consisted of tea, cherry jam, and anemic peppermint cookies — one of the driest and least delectable Russian specialties — he would turn to my mother and exclaim: “I don’t see why Seryoja doesn’t take them abroad. Even now, they aren’t any worse than his famous artists. — Roys,” he would add in a tone of a regimental commander addressing his troops, “just go on exercising and in a few years you’ll he abroad. Seryoja will take you to play in Paris.”

I remember a photograph of a handsome young man in the uniform of the Petersburg University (in those days most Russian youths had to wear some kind of uniform). Someone must have told me that the pale-faced university student was Sergei Pavlovitch Diaghilev, the youthful patron and lover of the arts, who had been the aid to the director of the Imperial Theatres and who after a short and tempesluous career had left Russia in a huff and was now in Paris.

From the earliest days of my childhood, until my mother succeeded in transforming at least one of her sons into a professional musician, the figure of Diaghilev fixed itself deeper and deeper in the realm of ambiguity. He seemed to me an impenetrable being, whose fame, a paradox in my child’s conception of art, contained elements of princely splendor, the onus of moral irregularities (of which I had, of course, no explicit suspicion at the time), and rumors of terrible irascibility and haughtiness. Every time his name was mentioned at his brother’s house, or in the presence of my mother, which happened at least every other Saturday, such mixed feelings, part discomfort, part pride, were aroused among the ancestry, as we used to call our elders, that they were inevitably communicated to us, the children.

I remember asking Uncle Valya: “Does your brother Sergei compose?”

“Oh, just a little,” he would answer, and add, “Rimsky-Korsakov, to whom he showed his compositions, told him that he should stop composing because he has no talent.”

“Does he play an instrument?” I persisted.

“ Yes, he plays the piano, but only a bit, and not at all well.”

I also faintly remember an involved story about Sergei’s unsuccessful attempts to become an opera singer. “He started to take lessons from Cotoni [the famous Italian voice teacher in St. Petersburg],” said Uncle Valva, “but after a few lessons he quarreled with the maestro and walked out in the middle of the lesson, and that was the end of that.”

How difficult it was for me to understand how a man who did not compose, did not play, sing, paint, or write, should become so famous. I often asked myself, “What is his real relation to music, to painting, to the theater?” It took some fifteen years to understand, in part, the uniqueness and complexity of Diaghilev’s genius.

3

LOOK, look!” said my mother. “There he is.”We were sitting in one of those middling Russian restaurants in Paris, which sprouted all over the world in the twenties, as a result of the glorious October revolution. Opposite, in another corner of the restaurant, a gloomy waiter in extravagant haberdashery was serving a plate of extinct hors d’oeuvres to a big man with a monocle, and a flower in his buttonhole. A streak of white cut across his black hair from the right side of his forehead, reaching the back of his large round head, lie talked excitedly to the young man at his side.

I recognized him immediately, by I92d I, as everyone else, knew the features of one of Europe’s most famous men, and besides, I knew him instantly as the brother of Uncle Valya. Although the Colonel and Sergei Pavlovitch were only half brothers, the size and shape of their heads, the design of their eyebrows, and the form of their lips were so much alike that one could not miss the resemblance.

My mother, who had always been a parental Held marshal, planning and shaping the destinies of her children, had been talking to me for some t ime about the usefulness and need for me to meet Diaghilev. Now she seemed elated at the sight of him sitting across the room. “Finish eating, and let’s go to their table,” she said. “I’ll introduce you to him.”But I prevailed upon her to wait until Diaghilev and his companion had finished their meal.

All through the rest of the lunch she kept looking at the Diaghilev table, trying to catch his eye, and when she finally succeeded, she beamed at him in such a pompous and obtrusive manner that he could not but smile back in that politely irritated way one smiles at people whose faces one has forgotten and who appear to be potential bores (later, I learned how terrified Diaghilev was of solicitous ballet mothers, who were constantly asking favors for their sons and daughters).

When they had finished eating and asked for their bill (which my mother duly observed), she pulled my sleeve and said, “Come, it’s time now.”While we struggled past the crowded tables, Diaghilev rose and started putting on an enormous fur-lined coat.

“Sergei Pavlovitch, nge ouznayete?— Don’t you recognize me?" said my mother as we approached. He dropped his monocle and gazed at her with bewilderment, but before he could answer she introduced herself and, turning to me, added, “And this is mv youngest son; the one who writes music.”

“Ah, chere amie, so you are the mother of the second half of Valya’s quartet,” he said in a gav high-pitched voice. “ Ves, of course I remember, we met in St. Petersburg.”Ilis face broke1 into a charming, benevolent smile, lie put his monocle back in his eye and, taking my mother’s hand, bent over atld greeted her ceremoniously.

“ \\ hat are you doing here.-" fie said. “ I lave you any news from Valya and Dasha? 1 haven’t heard anything since 1921. You know, of course, that Pavlik and Alyosha have either been executed or were killed in the last months of the civil war. Valentin, I believe, is still in prison.”

Hut my mother had no news and, seeing that he was about to leave, abruptly changed the subject. “Sergei Pavlovitch,”she said, pointing at me, “I wTould like you to listen to his music. 1 want your opinion about it

Ilis face changed again and took on a bored expression and he mumbled hurriedly: “Yes, of course, sometime, gladly, but now I’m very busy — rehearsals, you know. Do give me a ring when you’ll be back.”And fixing me with an icy look, he added: “I’d love to listen to your music, jeutte ho mine. I only regret it can’t be now. — Au revoir, chere amie, je suis navré.”

All this was said in such a cutting and final way that even my persistent mother did not dare pursue the matter or attempt to delay bis exit.

Curiously enough it was during this first, so painfully unsuccessful encounter that my memory took its most precise and vivid snapshots of the physical appearance of Diaghilev. I remember him as he stood near the exit flanked by bis youthful companion (later I knew that it was Anion Dolin, the dancer), the fur-lined coat with its handsome beaver collar making his big, tall body and his tremendous head look even more majestic, more lordly than it appeared in the pictures I had seen. I remember his tired, haughty look; his dark eyes and the even darker bags under them. I remember the sallow, wasted color of his heavy-set but well-kept face with the neatly trimmed mustache, the protruding lower jaw, and the upturned upper lip revealing, when he smiled, a row of dubiously new teeth,

There was always a faint scent of violets around him (he used to chew tiny violet-scented candy) and it was during this meeting that I must have noticed it for the first time. Hut perhaps what my memory captured best that day was his voice, his unique manner of speaking, He spoke in a high-pitched, nasal, and capricious tone which seemed intended precisely for the phrase “.la revoir, chère amie, je suis narré,” and he dropped unaccented syllables of long Russian words as if he had chewed them up.

When I now recall this first meeting, and try to draw one whole from the many separate images, I see before me a Riaghilev unapproachable and haughty, imposing and slightly freakish in his appearance, charming and at the same time a little bit frightening, a little bit dangerous. And although successive years have modified much of this vision, a part remains; for, as often happens in first encounters, the intuitive powers of my mind, its perceptive antennae, were so sensitized that I was able to grasp certain traits of Riaghilev’s character which later became the explicit basis of my understanding.

4

BY 1924 Diaghilev had been “in business” for about twenty years with Paris as the center of his activity since 1906. He had behind him an unequaled career of successes which very few opera managers or ballet directors have ever known.

Having come to France as a young Russian gentleman whose name was totally unknown to the French public and only barely heard of in Parisian art circles, he had taken upon himself the task of acquainting Paris—and through Paris Western Europe —with Russian achievements in the fields of music, opera, and ballet.

At that time (as everybody knows but frequently neglects to remember) Russian music and Russian art were practically unknown in the Western world. Names that now populate the musical Parnassus of the West and bring steady and sizable dividends to the entertainment industry (from the New York Philharmonic to the juke boxes), names like Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Moussorgsky, and even Tchaikovsky, meant very little indeed to the average Parisian, Londoner, and New Yorker of 1900 or 1905.

True enough, a young Frenchman named Debussy brought back from Russia (where lie had spent some time in the eighties as the tutor in the household of Tchaikovsky’s “ beloved friend,”Mine, von Meek) a score he treasured more than any other in his life: Boris Godunov by Moussorgskv. And true enough, Tchaikovsky traveled to the U.S.A. (much against his will) and conducted at the opening of Carnegie Hall and later; Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique was played by the New York Symphony Orchestra before il had even been played in Russia. But these were rare individual instances. They do not in the slightest alter the fact that before Diaghilev’s arrival in Paris in 1906, Russian music, opera, and ballet were practically unknown in the West.

In less than five years Boris Godunov, Prince Igor, and other works, the singing of Chaliapin, the dancing of Pavlova, Karsavina, and Nijinsky, the playing and conducting of such men as Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, Scriabin, and Rachmaninov, and above all the appearance of a first-rate young Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, created such a sensation, aroused so much interest, that from then on Russian art became the fashion of the day for at least a decade, and its influence penetrated the whole artistic life of the Western world.

On the eve of the First World War the base of Diaghilev’s enterprises had broadened considerably. Although primarily still concerned with the diffusion of Russian art, it had become a magnet for young musicians, painters, and poets of Western Europe. Starting with 1910 1911, names like Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Richard Strauss appeared on the programs of Diaghilev’s Parisian seasons, and poets like Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Jean Cocteau wrote libretti for some of the new productions.

Riaghilev’s Ballet and Opera Company in Paris rapidly evolved into a kind of workshop, a testing ground for new ideas, new techniques, and new styles. It maintained this position until Diaghilev’s death in 1929, From 1917 on, it limited itself to the production of ballet and became the center of a very healthy and profoundly creative internationalism. Diaghilev, for example, always tried to pair musicians and painters of the same nationality for a production, and urged them to choose subject matter derived or invented from their national tradition.

But Diaghilev’s workshop also became the somewhat exotic meeting place for snobs from all over Europe and the fashionable set of Parisian society (as the society columnist of Le Figaro called it, “ ce bazar seduisant de sons et de couleurs exotiques”).

Diaghilev’s attachment to and association with the snobbish elite has been a standing objection of his detractors. Even during his lifetime he was called a “lackey of fashion” and “an unscrupulous caterer to the corrupt tastes of a decadent uppercrust.” On the surface these accusations appear valid. It is true that Diaghilev associated with and in a sense depended on the rich and fashionable in Parisian and other European society (which, by the way, has always comprised a few persons sincerely dedicated to the love of the arts). He did become a sort of “dictator of taste and fashion,” and around his Ballet Company there existed an irritating kind of fashionable fervor.

For example, every work had to be stylish and startling, and a terrible fuss was made about what “should be done this year” and what “shouldn’t,” and about whose music one should like and whose one shouldn’t. Besides, Diaghilev also sponsored the production of a few works whose slick appearance barely concealed an irretrievable lack of content ; works that had no more meaning or value than the cover girl of last year’s fashion magazine. (As a matter of fact he was the first to discard them after their second or third performances.) But it is sufficient to glance at the long list of works of permanent value which were produced by the Ballet Russe, and at the quantity of serious and absolutely unfashionable experimentation which was carried on under Diaghilev’s direction to realize how partisan and unjust such accusations are.

It was Diaghilev and his collaborators that produced such masterpieces as Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring, Apollo, de Falla’s Three-cornered Hat, Prokofiev’s Prodigal Son, to mention but a select few from the long list of first-class modern works. It was Diaghilev who first produced in Western Europe and adjusted to Western tastes most of the now famous classical ballets (Les Sylpkides, Le Spectre de la Rose, Swan Lake, Le Mariage d’ Aurore) which form the core of contemporary ballet companies, and on the artistic capital accumulated during the Diaghilev period exist the bleak Ballets Russes of today (those from over and around Monte Carlo).

Diaghilev’s period created a truly novel style of classical dancing (now so often debased by a lack of new ideas and by the wanderings of ballet companies on the leash of commercial managers).

But above all else, the profound and irreplaceable influence exercised by Diaghikev’s Ballet Russe upon a whole artistic generation was dependent on the close association of his collaborators with the man himself, with his immense knowledge, his ability to inspire, to discriminate, to demand and expect the best of his artists. And more than this, the Ballet Russe was the center from which a great constellation of modern masters derived a sometimes not easily definable direction. Such masters as Stravinsky, Satie, Ravel, Prokofiev, de Falla, Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Braque, Fokine, Balanchine, Massine, and many, many others have given a distinct and brilliant visage to a great period in the history of Western art.

No, Diaghilev was never at the mercy of the fashionable set, and never really did he cater to their tastes. What he did was to use them; use their prestige, their money, their gossip, their vanity, their snobbishness, their elegance and depravity, for the benefit of his enterprise — which is to say, for the benefit of art.

He used them ably and subtly, often ruthlessly and cynically and at times quite unscrupulously. And they let themselves be done in gladly, for to them he was the arbiter elegantiarum, the great artistic leader, the focal point of fashion and good taste. They were led by his rough and somewhat erratic hand and liked it; and usually they accepted what he did without much question.

His real judges and critics always remained the artists themselves. They were his true friends and his true enemies, they were his collaborators and antagonists, and it was primarily for them that he carried on his intense and exciting work. It was for the artists of Paris and of all Europe, and ultimately for the artists of the whole world, that every spring (so often against the greatest financial odds) he offered a magnificent two or three weeks of what he believed was the best, the latest, the freshest, and the most daring in music, painting, and dancing. If sometimes he did not succeed, we must remember that we still thrive on and feed from the remains of his abundant and generous table.

5

WHEN T finally succeeded in being presented to Diaghilev as a composer and not as Mama’s son and an ephemeral relative (which as a matter of fact 1 have never been; my stepfather’s first cousin married Diaghilev’s half brother, as a result of which we called the Diaghilevs “uncle, aunt, and cousins”), I was received with reserve, politeness, and marked skepticism.

’This time the road that led me to Diaghilev was the usual road, the same one that composers have traveled for centuries. Mrs. B learned about me from Mr. A and passed me on to Mrs. C. Mrs. C invited me to a lea party and there introduced me to a Mr. D. Mr. D, who was about 25 per cent more influential than the original Mr. A, told Mr. E that I needed help (composers usually do, and I did rather sorely). Mr. E had a niece, Mile. F, a lady in her middle thirties, of Arab descent, who was endowed with an extraordinarily majestic bosom, a powerful voice, and a wooden leg. E bullied his niece into learning three of my songs. Several months later, in the winter of 1925-1926, she performed them at a hodgepodge concert of the SMI (Sociale Musieale Independante). This organization gave several concerts yearly, consisting of various first performances of unknown compositions.

When the time came for Mlle. F and me to march on the stage, we got stuck in the narrow passage leading to the stage and I unwittingly tripped up my wooden-legged diva. Fortunately she did not lull on the floor, but once on the stage she turned to me and under her breath said that if it were not for the fact that we were on the stage, she would gladly break my neck. This naturally upset me at the very outset of our performance.

After the end of the first song, which was long and tedious, written to moldy words of the Persian poet Omar Khayyám (translated into the French from an English translation by FitzGerald), I saw Prokofiev, whom by that time I had somewhere and somehow met, siding right in the middle of the first row, smiling and quietly but insistently rubbing his chin, which in French means “Quelle barbe! - What a bore!” I tried to look away, and in doing so caught a glimpse of another very familiar face, in the second row right behind Prokofiev. I recognized the bemonoeled, bulldog countenance of Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev, who, as I later found out, was dragged in by Prokofiev to hear my music. This discovery made me so jittery that I lost control of myself and bungled the accompaniment to the remaining two songs.

Under those complex circumstances it was only natural that the concert ended as somewhat of a failure, but afterwards Prokofiev came backstage and said that Diaghilev was waiting in front in a taxi and wanted to see me.

When we came out I was surprised to find Diaghilev in a kind and considerate mood, He was sitting inside a red Renault taxicab, flanked by two of his minions, and he smiled at me as he said, Your songs were not too bad, not as bad as you think, but tell me, where for heaven’s sake did you find that female monster, and why don’t you leave good old Omar Khayyám alone? You must come and show me your music. . . . I mean your other music, or don’t you have any?”

Thus I was spared any further wanderings through the dreary alphabet of contacts which line the path of beginning composers, and at the insistence of Prokofiev went to see Diaghilev with my “other music” in hand, at his residence in the Grand Hotel.

6

WE WERT, sitting around a broken-down upright piano in what was probably one of the banquet rooms of the Grand Hotel. Present besides Diaghilev and myself were Prokofiev; Waller or Valichka Nouvel, Diaghilev’s lifelong friend and collaborator, a small wiry little man with glasses; Diaghilev’s secretary and official librettist, Boris Kochno; and the recently “discovered” Serge Lifar. I had just finished playing my piano sonata and followed it up by a few excerpts from a cantata I had been working on fora year. After I had stopped, Diaghilev raised his eyebrows and saidEt bien? . . . C’est tout?” I said yes, it was all I had to show.

Valichka, himself a composer of sorts, and Prokofiev started to turn 1 he pages of my score “fishing” for mistakes (which is one of Prokofiev’s favorite paslimes). While I was playing, Diaghilev had been leaning on the silver top of his cane, but as soon as I stopped he slumped back into his chair and sat there with a bored and absent expression, saying absolutely nothing.

After a while he turned to Boris Kochno and asked, “Boris, when does the rehearsal start?”

“I think it is on already,” answered Boris.

“Then let’s go.” He got up hurriedly and said to me, “Thank you, Nika, for playing your music . . . when you have written more, come and show it to me. . Au revoir.”

I felt discouraged and let down. “Oh, don’t pay any attention,” said Nouvel, after Diaghilev had left, “that is his usual manner. On the contrary, if he had disliked your music he would have been terribly polite to you and paid you all sorts of silly compliments” (which was an exaggeration). “Am I not right, S.S.?” said he turning to Prokofiev. “Well, I think Nabokov should have waited to show him his cantata until he had finished it. This way it doesn’t moan very much,” answered Prokofiev.

Curiously enough, it was this very same cantata which became my first and only Diaghilev commission. (It was produced in Paris and London as the ballet-oratorio Ode in P)L28, barely a year before Diaghilev s death.) 1 hanks lo it I finally vieI Diaghilev, saw him at work, observed bis ill and good humors, had long and unforgettable conversations with him, became for a while a part of his artistic enterprise, and learned to admire him as one of the few truly great men 1. have known in my life.

Ji is indeed very hard to describe the greatness of Diaghilev. What made him great? What is it that made him the center of attraction, the focal point and the symbol of a whole artist ic movement?

Ilis friends and admirers always had a hard time persuading outsiders of Diaghilev’s greatness, while his detractors, both those who attacked his morals and those who repudiated him as an evil influence (as, for example, the wife of a famous dancer, or the present-day Soviet aestheticians), succeeded easily in depicting him as a kind of depraved monster totally lacking in any true value, residing in the “corruption of the tastes and ideas of his time” or abetting the “acceleration of the decadence of bourgeois art.”

The reason for the attacks against him is simple: Diaghilev’s faults and weaknesses were all too obvious and well publicized. His gifts, on the other hand, were not so easy to detect. They were of an intangible and a hybrid nature; only those who had known him well and had collaborated with him could appreciate the full measure of his extraordinary talents. To them, to his artist-collaborators, Diaghilev was primarily a shrewd and discerning critic, a friend and a patron. They knew that his faults were secondary and greatly overshadowed by his gifts. Very few of them were really concerned with the peculiarities of his private life — with the scandal attached to his overpublic love affairs. Men like Stravinsky, Debussy, de Falla, Prokofiev, Picasso, Balanchine, and many others regarded all this as none of their concern. They took Diaghilev as he was — a great man endowed with weaknesses and immense talents — and forgave him his fits of temper, his haughtiness, his intolerance to men and ideas, and his readiness to quarrel over a I rifle at the slightest provocation. ’They knew that in him they had not only a friend but a unique judge and ally of their art. They knew that he was a fighter for the cause for which they stood. They gladly and enthusiastically worked for him, and to many of them this work at the Ballet Rasse remains forever the most exciting adventure of their lives.

(To be continued)