Hardly any figures in the history of music have been as scandalous and colorful as Igor Stravinskybio. His oeuvre includes not only pieces in neo-Renaissance style, evoking times past and tonal boundaries, and compositions testing audiences’ patience, but also jazz and film music. The Budapest Festival Orchestra will show three musical facets of the composer. Between the last moment before escaping from the prison of tonality, or the “Basel” concerto, and the Rite of Spring, a composition of worldwide fame described as the atomic bomb of the history of music, the Capriccio, originally composed for Stravinsky’s own qualities as a piano player, will be performed with the solo of Nicolas Namoradze, a Hungarian pianist of Georgian origin living in America, hailed by a New York Times reviewer as “sparkling... sensitive and coloristic”, who is a regular guest of the BFO.
In 1939, Stravinsky settled in America, where, as a good Hollywood composer, he wrote a few pieces worthy of his talent for the film industry. He also continued to compose classical music, of course. In 1946, on the 20th anniversary of the Basel Chamber Orchestra, he was commissioned by Paul Sacher to compose a piece for the orchestra. This is how Stravinsky’s first composition since 1928 for a string orchestra was born. In line with the traditions of the Baroque concerto grosso, a smaller group of musicians (concertino) is opposed to a larger ensemble (ripieno). However, the long-lasting dissonances, the special techniques required from the strings and the rhythm of the finale prove that this is a genuinely Stravinskian piece.
“Set to become one of the truly important artists of his generation.” This is how legendary Emanuel Ax has described Nicolas Namoradze. The young pianist came to fame in 2018 upon winning the Honens International Piano Competition, one of the largest musical contests in the world. And indeed, the Capriccio composed for piano and orchestra does require such an outstanding soloist; early on it was performed by an excellent virtuoso, Stravinsky himself, the first time in 1929 with the Paris Symphony Orchestra. Some parts of the three-movement piece have a strong reference to the style of Tchaikovsky, on whom the composer was focusing at the time, but it also includes some Hungarian motifs. The graceful Capriccio is characterized by dancing between a serious tone and playfulness.
Scenes from pagan Russia – this subtitle was probably missed by a contemporary critic, who mocked the Rite of Spring after its premiere in 1913 with the words “crash, clash, cling, clang, bing, bang, bing”. The word spring made the audience expect birds singing and an elegant ballet. On the contrary,, they saw barefoot dancers clad in earth-colored costumes, jumping around with hunched backs accompanied by asymmetric rhythms and dissonant accords. An elemental power instead of pointe shoes, ferocity instead of tulle, and human sacrifice instead of pirouettes. The piece composed for the Ballets Russes in Paris has become Stravinsky’s most famous work.