Jeu de cartes
Violin Concerto in D major
Le Sacre du printemps
About the event
Whether it’s meant to be or not, everything is a little about love on Valentine’s Day. Stravinsky’s unconventional ballet, Jeu de cartes (Card Game), depicting a poker party, will more easily remind us of the cards of hearts, or the saying “Lucky at cards, unlucky in love”. We may witness a special relationship, almost an affair during the composer’s violin concerto, another hardly conventional piece. As a critic for The Irish Times put it, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the soloist of the evening, “makes her instrument sing, weep, dance, cajole, flirt....She plays the violin not really as an instrument, but as an extension of herself.” The concert will be concluded with the Rite of Spring, a piece sometimes called the atomic bomb and the biggest scandal of music history, where, in addition to human sacrifice, we can also have a glimpse of ancient “courting” habits.
“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”. 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 pieces of Stravinsky’s Russian period, the ballet music that is considered unique even in his oeuvre. The composer made the first sketches of The Rite of Spring, a piece with vast orchestral sounds, at the end of 1910 in a tiny Swiss cottage in the company of just an upright piano. Diaghilev, who commissioned the music, knew immediately that it would provoke harsh reactions from the audiences. The ballet presenting an ancient pagan rite - the sacrifice of a virgin for spring to come - was from the first moment accompanied by showers of tomatoes and eggs, and whistles. A year later, however, the unusual asymmetric rhythms, the dissonant sounds and the wild, barefoot dancers were already a great success.