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completed in late July 1959; commissioned by Karl Weber for his wife Margrit who gave the first performance in New York Town Hall in January 1960, the composer conducting; originally to be titled Concerto for piano and groups of instruments

'Stravinsky: Complete music for piano & orchestra' (CDA67870)
Stravinsky: Complete music for piano & orchestra
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Movement 1: Quaver = 110
Movement 2: Crotchet = 52
Movement 3: Quaver = 72
Movement 4: Quaver = 80
Movement 5: Quaver = 104

Completed in late July 1959, Movements marked by far the composer’s most intricate serial work to date—his ‘most advanced music’ as he declared in Memories and Commentaries. Scored for piano and an orchestra that included a harp and celesta, this astringent, compactly structured work assigns the most important role to the solo piano. Initially, in fact, Stravinsky entitled the work Concerto for piano and groups of instruments. But he soon did away with the description since the piano does not serve the same role it occupied in his earlier two works for piano and orchestra. Here the keyboard’s use is more compressed, more of a contributor to the chamber music environment in which it finds itself.

The piano seems to have assumed the role of a solo instrument as a consequence of a commission by Swiss magnate Karl Weber, who wished to have a Stravinsky piano piece for his wife Margrit to perform. Movements was premiered at the Town Hall in New York in January 1960 with Weber at the piano and the seventy-eight year old Stravinsky conducting. Originally there were five short movements (without individual titles and carrying only metronomic indications), including four even briefer intervening sections, marked as ‘interludes’, of only a few bars without piano (although by the time the work was published those headings were dropped). The work outlines a lexicon of serial techniques: rotations, retrograde inversions, hexachordal transpositions and combinatorial segmentations—all within an unmistakably pointillistic orchestral structure. Stravinsky’s close examination of the music of Krenek and the piano pieces of Stockhausen at that time evidently left an imprint. The score of Movements reveals a pianism unlike anything Stravinsky had written before. The piano itself establishes a timbral constancy right in the centre of kaleidoscopically changing patterns of contrasting instrumental colours. Occasionally the piano is heard alone, but even then only briefly. Most often it is found in combinations with one of the orchestral ‘choirs’. Spatially, the pianism is also notably Webernesque in its exploration of the entire register of the keyboard. Compositionally, the work is a testament to Stravinsky’s ongoing vitality at the age of seventy-seven, and his remarkable embrace of the most advanced, contemporary serial techniques.

from notes by Charles M Joseph © 2013

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Details for CDA67870 track 11
Quaver = 80
Recording date
20 May 2012
Recording venue
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Recording producer
Rachel Smith
Recording engineer
David Hinitt & Mike Panayiotis
Hyperion usage
  1. Stravinsky: Complete music for piano & orchestra (CDA67870)
    Disc 1 Track 11
    Release date: June 2013
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