Igor Stravinsky’s Danses concertantes unfolds as an summary ballet. Its quirky forged of instrumental “characters” grow to be digital “dancers” in a witty, neoclassical drama. The titles of its 5 actions evoke the sections of a ballet. Movement, class, and a joyful athleticism abound.
Stravinsky had simply emigrated to the USA and settled in West Hollywood when, in 1941, he acquired the fee from Werner Janssen for Danses concertantes. Janssen was an American conductor and composer of quite a few movie scores which included Captain Kidd (1945) and the Marx Brothers’ A Evening in Casablanca (1946). In 1940, he shaped the Janssen Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble which championed modern music and, for a time, rivaled the Los Angeles Philharmonic. If Danses concertantes was live performance music in quest of a ballet, Stravinsky’s Los Angeles neighbor and longtime collaborator, George Balanchine, quickly answered the decision. Balanchine’s choreographed manufacturing was premiered by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in New York in 1944. This was adopted by a New York Metropolis Ballet manufacturing in 1972.
The crisp, spare contrapuntal traces of Danses concertantes pay homage to the Baroque concerto grosso, which incorporates a dialogue between the complete ensemble (ripieno) and smaller instrumental groupings. We’re reminded of Stravinsky’s adage that “the extra artwork is managed, labored over, the extra it’s free.” The piece begins and ends with an exuberant and spirited Marche. Though written in a constant meter, Stravinsky’s “march” is full of jarring accents and cross rhythms which play tips with our notion of the beat. The second motion, Pas d’motion, suggests a pantomimic dance sequence wherein drama unfolds. Right here, the drama is clownish and erratic. The Thème varié which follows opens the door to 4 variations which alternate between serene introspection and the frolicking of a Scherzando. Amid ever-shifting ostinatos and strolling bass traces, the fourth motion (Pas de Deux) is a celebration of conversing musical voices, from the fluttering flute and the buffoonish trombone to the nostalgic clarinet.
I. Marche – Introduction:
II. Pas d’motion:
III. Thème varié:
IV. Pas de Deux:
V. Marche – Conclusion:
- Stravinsky: Danses Concertantes for Chamber Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Amazon
Featured Picture: Nicolas Georgiadis’ set design for Kenneth MacMillan’s 1955 manufacturing
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