About the event
Cardsharps, a violin concerto sketched on a napkin, a Harlequin breaking loose – Stravinsky’s life, extremely diverse oeuvre and varied, constantly changing style is full of shocking, revolutionary or grotesque ideas and solutions. All his compositions are separate worlds of their own, but still bound together by the spirit of the iconoclastic genius, who had no respect for conventions. Between the ballet compositions telling the story of the poker party and the Harlequin puppet at the fair, the composer’s violin concerto will be performed, which, interestingly, could break with the traditions of the genre as a result of Stravinsky’s limited knowledge of the instrument. Iván Fischer thinks that the soloist of the program is also an artist following her own path. “Patricia Kopatschinskaja is breathtakingly witty and is sometimes provocative in her originality. She is a violinist with an unheard-of fantasy.”
“The characters in this ballet are the cards in a game of poker, disputed between several players on the green baize table of a gaming house. At each deal the situation is complicated by the endless guiles of the perfidious Joker, who believes himself invincible because of his ability to become any desired card.” This is how Stravinsky begins his introduction to the abstract work originally intended to be a ballet and including a number of brief dance movements. The card game including waltzes, a march, a solo by the Queen, a corps de ballet of a stack of cards, as well as references to Beethoven, Strauss, Rossini, Tchaikovsky and Ravel presents three poker deals. In the end, it turns out that even the Joker can be defeated, or, as Iván Fischer puts it: “We can rebel against cardsharps”.
Stravinsky was a great master of writing intriguing endings. The final twist of the card game is also very impressive. However, the finale of the violin concerto was called by Robert Craft, Stravinsky’s biographer, one of the most exciting endings the composer ever wrote. Stravinsky was by no means certain that his piece would be a success. As he was not completely aware of the instrument’s characteristics, he only took the commission with the promise that the recipient of the piece, violinist Samuel Dushkin will be available for consultation throughout the process of composition. All the movements start with the same chord, first sketched by Stravinsky on a napkin. Once Dushkin found the chord easy to play, Stravinsky proceeded to write the entire piece.
The concert will be concluded with one of the most important ballet music of Stravinsky’s Russian period. At the end of 1910, the composer was preparing to sketch the score of the Rite of Spring. However, before starting the exhausting work, he wrote a concert piece in order to relax. Diaghilev, the director of the Russian Ballet, was fascinated by the music about the bittersweet clown and encouraged Stravinsky to elaborate it. That was the birth of Petrushka, the commedia dell’arte in the turmoil of a Russian fair. The composition is characterized by an ironic and grotesque tone, mocking emotions and Romanticism, and ridiculing sentimental audiences. The ballet of four scenes is about hopeless love, jealousy and murder.
Did you know? The Card Game premiered in New York on April 27, 1937 (conducted by the author himself), the Violin Concerto in Berlin on October 23, 1931 (soloist: Samuel Dushkin, conducted by the author himself), Petrushka in Paris on June 13, 1911 (conductor: Pierre Monteux) ; Card Game was last performed by the Festival Orchestra in Ravenna on June 10, 2016 (conductor: Iván Fischer), the Violin Concerto in Budapest on October 15, 1994 (soloist: Elizabeth Balmas, conductor: Marek Janowski), Petrushka in Lyon on January 15, 2010 (conductor: Iván Fischer).
Contemporary events Marshal Tukhachevsky and his seven accomplices were sentenced to death for “treason and planning a coup d’état” in Moscow in 1937 / the novel Ferdydurke by the Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz was published in 1937 / in 1937 Benjamin Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge premiered at the Salzburg Festival / Pope Pius XI published his encyclical Quadragesimo anno in 1931 / The Belgian painter René Magritte painted The Voice of Space in 1931 / the novel The Waves by Virgina Wolf English writer was published in 1931 / on September 14, 1911 Pyotr Stolypin the prime minister of Russia was assassinated in Kiev / the first volume of poems The Bestiary or Retinue of Orpheus by the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was published in 1911 / on January 26, 1911 Richard Strauss’ opera The Knight of the Rose premiered in Dresden where it was directed by Max Reinhardt