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.
Did you know? The Card Game premiered in New York on April 27, 1937 (conducted by the author himself), the Violin Concerto in Berlin on October 23, 1931 (soloist: Samuel Dushkin, conducted by the author himself), The Rite of Spring in Paris on May 29, 1913 (conductor: Pierre Monteux) ; Card Game was last performed by the Festival Orchestra in Ravenna on June 10, 2016 (conductor: Iván Fischer), the Violin Concerto in Budapest on October 15, 1994 (soloist: Elizabeth Balmas, conductor: Marek Janowski), The Rite of Spring in Berlin on March 13, 2019 (conductor: Iván Fischer).
Contemporary events Marshal Tukhachevsky and his seven accomplices were sentenced to death for “treason and planning a coup d’état” in Moscow in 1937 / the novel Ferdydurke by the Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz was published in 1937 / in 1937 Benjamin Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge premiered at the Salzburg Festival / Pope Pius XI published his encyclical Quadragesimo anno in 1931 / The Belgian painter René Magritte painted The Voice of Space in 1931 / the novel The Waves by Virgina Wolf English writer was published in 1931 / on February 19, 1913 members of the suffragette movement blew up the British Prime Minister Lloyd George’s country house / on April 1, 1913 the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla’s opera The Brief Life premiered in Nice / Marc Chagall, a Russian Jewish painter painted his painting called Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers in 1913