Stravinsky Marathon – Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra
About the program
The concert by the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra features two works for string orchestra. Of the two, the later piece, Concerto in D, composed in Hollywood in 1946, is the closing work of Stravinsky’s neo-classical period and is one of those works – surprisingly great in number – that were commissioned by Paul Sacher. He ordered the Concerto from Stravinsky for the 20th anniversary of the Basel Chamber Orchestra. The exceptionally elegant work was written almost two decades after Apollon musagète, though the two have much in common.
“…the Library of Congress in Washington DC commissioned a ballet for a festival dedicated to contemporary music, presenting a number of composers’ works, written specially for the occasion. (…) The choice of topic was left to me, the only restrictions being the duration of 30 minutes and the small ensemble owing to the limited size of the hall. The offer came in handy as I was more or less free in those days and I was able to carry out a plan that had long intrigued me: I could compose a ballet to a couple of episodes from Greek mythology, demonstrating the plasticity of mythology in the abstract form of the so-called classical ballet. I chose Apollon musagète for my subject, in other words the head of the Muses and the source of inspiration of their art,’ writes Stravinsky in his Chronicle of My Life about the 30-minute ballet music. If Pulcinella was the starting point of the composer’s neo-classicism, then Apollon musagète is definitely the summit of this period. “I scored Apollon for a string ensemble”, he mentions elsewhere. “My music – instead of the quartet, or, more precisely, quintet of an ordinary orchestra (first and second violins, violas, celli and double basses) – called for six groups of strings. I therefore complemented the ensemble with a sixth group, the second celli. Eventually I formed an instrumental sextet with every group having its precisely defined role, which called for a well-balanced number of instruments within the groups. … The work was received really well by the audience; its success was beyond my expectations, since Apollon lacks the musical elements that provoke the enthusiasm of the crowd on first hearing”, adds Stravinsky in connection with the premiere in 1928. The choreography of the ballet was designed by Balanchine. According to the recollections of contemporaries, the outcome was a perfect unity of dance and music; the expression of pure, classical beauty.
Igor Stravinsky: Concerto in D
Igor Stravinksy: Apollon musagète