Movement 1: Presto
Movement 2: Andante rapsodico
Movement 3: Allegro capriccioso ma tempo giusto
The first movement begins with an introduction marked Presto that quickly gives way to the movement’s main material—displaying piano writing that explores the entire keyboard in an unending, continuously expansive manner. From start to finish, with little opportunity for the soloist to grab a breath, the pianist must shape the long, mellifluous lines as part of an unbroken fabric. The movement ends with a restatement of the opening material.
The heading of the middle movement, Andante rapsodico, indicates that the composer was once again writing in an almost improvisatory style, replete with rapid rhythmic figurations of nine-, eleven- and thirteen-note groupings. The resulting flights of fancy are reminiscent of the highly ornamental embroidery evident in the music of Carl Maria von Weber, who, as Stravinsky recalled in his Chronicle, exercised a ‘spell’ over him at the time.
This second movement leads without pause into the final Allegro capriccioso ma tempo giusto from whence the title of the work springs, since this third movement was in fact composed first. The form is stricter here, adhering to the principles of a classical rondo. The perpetual-motion writing that propels the movement is brilliantly spun throughout both the piano and orchestra.
The Capriccio was premiered at a Paris Symphony concert in December 1929 with Stravinsky at the piano and his friend Ernest Ansermet on the podium; the composer later revised the score in 1949, but only with minor alterations. Nearly forty years after its premiere, the Capriccio found a new home on stage with George Balanchine’s 1968 ballet Jewels, in which Stravinsky’s music was employed in the ‘Rubies’ section of this perennially popular New York City Ballet production.
from notes by Charles M Joseph © 2013