Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Symphonic Stravinsky

No. 263 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast263


Today’s “Fifth Tuesday” installment of the Tuesday Blog features one of our montages and this one is dedicated to the music of Igor Stravinsky, and specifically to three of his five symphonies.

To begin, we note that we’ve programmed in past montages his Symophony of Psalms and his Symphonies of Wind Instrukments – the latter being a sort of play on words; in the title of this piece, Stravinsky used the word "symphonies" (note the plural form) not to label the work as an essay in the symphonic form, but rather in the word's older, broader connotation, from the Greek, of "sounding together".

The remaining three symphonies are part of this week’s montage beginning with Stravinsky’s “Opus one”, a Symphony in E-flat major, composed in 1905–07 during his apprenticeship with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov; it is also his first composition for orchestra. Of classical 4-movement structure, it is broadly influenced by Rimsky-Korsakov, GlazunovTchaikovsky and Wagner. The score bears the dedication "To my dear teacher N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov". A private performance was given on 27 April 1907 by the St. Petersburg Court Orchestra . Stravinsky later recalled that both Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov considered the orchestration "too heavy”. A revised version was conducted by Ernest Ansermet on 2 April 1914.

The Symphony in C is representative of Stravinsky's neoclassical period, which had been launched by his ballet Pulcinella (1919–20), the opera Mavra (1921–22), and Octet for winds (1922–23). It was written between 1938 and 1940 on the heels of a turbulent period of the composer's life, marked by illness (tuberculosis) and deaths in his immediate family (Stravinsky's daughter Ludmilla and wife Catherine died of the illness). Stravinsky was still mourning the deaths of his family members when World War II forced him to leave Europe. He had written the symphony's first two movements in France and Switzerland. Stravinsky wrote the third movement in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the fourth movement in Hollywood, after his emigration to the United States. The symphony was premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Stravinsky on November 7, 1940.

Unlike the prevous two symphonies that follow a traditional, four-movement structure our final symphony spans only three movements. Stravinsky wrote the Symphony in Three Movements from 1942–45 on commission by the Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York and is considered Stravinsky's first major composition after emigrating to the United States. It uses material written by Stravinsky for aborted film projects. Stravinsky conducted its premiere with the New York Philharmonic on January 24, 1946.

Happy Listening!