Sunday, April 25, 2010

Valery Gergiev conducts Stravinsky

Heard with TH last Thursday three Stravinsky works for the first time. Svadebka (Les Noces or The Wedding) (1914-23) was traumatic. The bride pleaded over and over again with her mother not to tear her hair in order to plait it. Scene Four: The Wedding Feast was anything but joyous. The work was sang by four soloists and the Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre. The musical instruments were pitched and unpitched percussion and four pianos, mostly played as percussion.

Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920, rev. 1945-47) was brief--12 minutes--but colorful. Stravinsky used "symphonies" to signal the original Greek meaning of "soundings together." The work is dedicated to Debussy, whom Stravinsky met in 1910, when Debussy congratulated him enthusiastically on the premiere of The Firebird.

L'Oiseau de feu, or The Firebird, is based on a Russian folk tale. Originally a ballet score, it was written for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The tale in brief: Prince Ivan frees the Firebird in exchange for one of its magical tail feathers. Lured by the most beautiful of 13 enchanted princesses into evil Lord Kashchei's trap, Ivan uses the feather to summon the Firebird which tells him about the egg that holds Kashchei's power. The Prince finds and smashes the egg, breaking the web of enchantment, and goes off with the liberated Princess.  Gergiev conducted the work with great passion, his hands, baton-less, sweeping and flickering through the air.

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