Jeu de cartes
Violin Concerto in D major
About the event
Cardsharps, a violin concerto sketched on a napkin, a Harlequin breaking loose – Stravinsky’s life, extremely diverse oeuvre and varied, constantly changing style is full of shocking, revolutionary or grotesque ideas and solutions. All his compositions are separate worlds of their own, but still bound together by the spirit of the iconoclastic genius, who had no respect for conventions. Between the ballet compositions telling the story of the poker party and the Harlequin puppet at the fair, the composer’s violin concerto will be performed, which, interestingly, could break with the traditions of the genre as a result of Stravinsky’s limited knowledge of the instrument. Iván Fischer thinks that the soloist of the program is also an artist following her own path. “Patricia Kopatschinskaja is breathtakingly witty and is sometimes provocative in her originality. She is a violinist with an unheard-of fantasy.”
“The characters in this ballet are the cards in a game of poker, disputed between several players on the green baize table of a gaming house. At each deal the situation is complicated by the endless guiles of the perfidious Joker, who believes himself invincible because of his ability to become any desired card.” This is how Stravinsky begins his introduction to the abstract work originally intended to be a ballet and including a number of brief dance movements. The card game including waltzes, a march, a solo by the Queen, a corps de ballet of a stack of cards, as well as references to Beethoven, Strauss, Rossini, Tchaikovsky and Ravel presents three poker deals. In the end, it turns out that even the Joker can be defeated, or, as Iván Fischer puts it: “We can rebel against cardsharps”.
Stravinsky was a great master of writing intriguing endings. The final twist of the card game is also very impressive. However, the finale of the violin concerto was called by Robert Craft, Stravinsky’s biographer, one of the most exciting endings the composer ever wrote. Stravinsky was by no means certain that his piece would be a success. As he was not completely aware of the instrument’s characteristics, he only took the commission with the promise that the recipient of the piece, violinist Samuel Dushkin will be available for consultation throughout the process of composition. All the movements start with the same chord, first sketched by Stravinsky on a napkin. Once Dushkin found the chord easy to play, Stravinsky proceeded to write the entire piece.
The concert will be concluded with one of the most important ballet music of Stravinsky’s Russian period. At the end of 1910, the composer was preparing to sketch the score of the Rite of Spring. However, before starting the exhausting work, he wrote a concert piece in order to relax. Diaghilev, the director of the Russian Ballet, was fascinated by the music about the bittersweet clown and encouraged Stravinsky to elaborate it. That was the birth of Petrushka, the commedia dell’arte in the turmoil of a Russian fair. The composition is characterized by an ironic and grotesque tone, mocking emotions and Romanticism, and ridiculing sentimental audiences. The ballet of four scenes is about hopeless love, jealousy and murder.