Stravinsky’s ballet music contains some of the composer’s most dazzling inspirations, and his work with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes brought him to international attention before the first world war. But it was through his collaborations with Diaghilev’s protégé George Balanchine that Stravinsky evolved the individual ‘neoclassical’ style of his own that is arguably his greatest contribution to the musical language of the twentieth century.
Contemporary audiences were thrilled by the innovative nature of these works. Walter Terry wrote in the Herald Tribune at the premiere of Agon that it was ‘quite possibly the most brilliant ballet creation of our day … true, Agon is not warm, not overtly human, but its very coolness is refreshing and it generates excitement because it totally ignores human foibles, dramatic situation, and concentrates wholly on the miracle of the dancing body’.
Five of Stravinsky’s ballets have been recorded on two discs (the second to be released in January) by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under maestro Ilan Volkov. Volkov’s mastery of a range of Russian music is well-represented on Hyperion and has been greatly acclaimed on the concert platform.