After the period in the work of Igor Stravinsky called “Russian”, there was a turn towards the past. His Neoclassical works were based on models drawn from the Baroque and Classicist eras and with great ingenuity wove old traditions into the artist’s modern musical language. We will hear three pieces of this type conducted by Joseph Swensen during a concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stravinsky’s death.
The Russian composer wrote Concerto in D in Hollywood in 1946. The work was commissioned by the conductor Paul Sacher, and the occasion was the twenty years of the ensemble he led – Basler Kammerorchester. The artist was a very wealthy man and he paid for the works of the most outstanding composers from his own pocket. The succinct and melodious three-movement Concerto in D is sometimes called the “Basle Concerto” after the city of its premiere. Then we will hear the Concerto in E flat major “Dumbarton Oaks” – an earlier work, completed in March 1938. The composer scored it for flute, clarinet, bassoon, two horns, three violins, three violas, two cellos and two double basses. It consists of three movements played attacca, continuously: Tempo giusto, Allegretto and Con moto. The title of the concerto is the name of the estate of the diplomat, art collector and philanthropist Robert Wood Bliss and his wife Mildred Barnes Bliss. They commissioned it from Stravinsky to mark the thirtieth anniversary of their wedding. The composer admitted that Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos were the most important source of inspiration for this work.
The evening will end with the performance of the ballet music Apollon musagète, which was a still earlier work as Stravinsky worked on it from 1927–1928. The plot of the ballet is simple. The introduction presents the birth of Apollo, and the next part his meeting with three muses: Calliope (muse of poetry), Polyhymnia (muse of lyric song) and Terpsichore (muse of dance), and finally their arrival at Parnassus is presented by last movements of the piece – the Apotheosis. Apollon musagète is a light work, full of grace and charm fitting perfectly with the theme undertaken by the composer.