Bard Music Festival Preview: Igor Stravinsky and His Contemporaries

Published on July 26th, 2013 | by Stephen Kaye

Two weekends, August 9–18:  Weekend One

Bard’s Music Festival begins on Friday evening, August 9, at 5 p.m., with an introductory talk and gets into the music at 7:30 with a program that contrasts the relatively early Les Noces (1913–17) with Abraham and Isaac (1961–63), both remarkable for their instrumentation, pulsing sounds and boldness. Stravinsky paid homage to Debussy, an important inspiration, in his Symphonies of Wind Instruments. The Symphony of Psalms (1930), with the Bard Festival Chorale under James Bagwell and members of the American Symphony Orchestra, called a neo-classical masterpiece, shows the different voice as Stravinsky moved away from using Russian peasant themes.

On Saturday night, August 11, the early Fireworks (1908) is paired with The Rite of Spring. Stravinsky’s Russian contemporaries Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov and Michael Steinberg will give us a contrasting picture showing how Stravinsky soared ahead of his fellow Russians.

Bard’s long and detailed press release, prepared by Yevgeny Primakov, describes how the program is designed to show Stravinsky’s musical breadth. He did not stick with any one style but moved comfortably from the Russian peasant themes of Rite, which shocked the Paris audience, to neo-classical style to twelve-tone music.

The first week of the two-weekend program centers on the Russia–Paris years. The second weekend takes us to the American years, following Stravinsky’s move to the United States in 1939.

In 1913 Paris was the locus of the music world. It was here that Stravinsky heard Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, which influenced his Three Japanese Lyrics, which in turn impressed Ravel. These pieces are grouped in Program Four, on Sunday, August 11, at 1 p.m., with works by Bartók, Satie and de Falla to give us a picture of what was brewing in Paris, “Modernist Conversations.”

The 5:30 p.m. Sunday performance with the orchestra, “From Abstraction to Surrealism,” covers Satie (1916–17) to Poulenc (1956), and in between we hear Auric, Honegger, Milhaud and other French composers as well as Ragtime, a jazzy piece by Stravinsky. We are reminded of Stravinsky’s connections with the artists of this period; Picasso, Cocteau, opera and ballet all play a  part in this music.


About the Author

Stephen Kaye

Stephen Kaye, editor and publisher, became intrigued with publishing when he heard the wheezing sounds of a flat-bed press and the clanking of the lino type machines while working on his weekly school paper towards the middle of the last century. Since then he worked on a college paper, studied and practiced law for a few decades, went into real estate, farming organic vegetables and grass-fed beef. After a few months of retirement he reverted to childhood fantasies and started The Millbrook Independent to replace the Millbrook Roundtable whose demise created a vacuum that needed filling. He can be reached at tminewsroom@gmail.com.


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