A second disc of Stravinsky’s ballet music from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Ilan Volkov, this time featuring the composer’s fascinating recreation of the music of Tchaikovsky.
Stravinsky’s advocation of the—then unfashionable—music of Tchaikovsky was well-known: he was a public champion of the composer over the Russian ‘nationalists’ such as Rimsky-Korsakov. In 1928, Stravinsky was commissioned by Ida Rubinstein to compose a ballet for her company’s season which was based on music by Tchaikovsky. Stravinsky probably envisaged a set of free orchestrations, but the music seems to have taken over and dictated its own terms, with the result that Stravinsky soon found himself entangled in a complex recreative process, and having to compose day and night to get the work completed in time for the first performance, never mind the early deadline. The result—The Fairy’s Kiss—is a complex and highly original masterpiece. As a whole the outcome is wonderfully disconcerting, and brilliantly challenges our perhaps too comfortable way of listening to late romantic music.
Scènes de ballet is in its way another ‘recreation’—a ballet ‘after Giselle’ written for performance on Broadway in 1944. Stravinsky devised a semi-abstract scenario with vague allusions to Giselle among other nineteenth-century ballets; and then proceeded to compose, as it were, ‘away from’ such models, to the extent that his music constantly suggests their ethos and formulae but always through a neoclassical prism and without direct quotation.