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Tchaikovsky & Stravinsky


It's been casually rumored that the young Stravinsky once met Tchaikovsky, is this true? I don't think it is because Stravinsky was born in 1882 and Tchaikovsky died in 1893, making him 11 years old at the time of Tchaikovsky's untimely death. At this time, Stravinsky wasn't a famous composer yet. Does anyone have any information on this?


Michael Svoboda

07/03/2009 08:39

Stravinsky's father, Fyodor, was a baritone with the Imperial Opera company at the Mariinskii Theatre in Saint Petersburg, and he took part in the premieres of several of Tchaikovsky's operas in the Russian capital, and would have been personally acquainted with the composer. Young Igor was apparently brought by his father to the premiere of the Pathëtique symphony in Saint Petersburg in 1893, with Tchaikovsky conducting, and he said many years afterwards that this had made a great impression on him. But (from memory, which could be wrong), I don't think that Igor was ever personally introduced to Tchaikovsky.

Hope this helps,

Brett Langston

Another incident that Stravinsky recalled is what I believe took place in Tchaikovsky's last week of life...I believe during the intermission of "A Life for the Tsar", young Stravinsky was with his mother when she pointed out the famous composer to her son in the foyer...that image stayed with Stravinsky throughout his life....he would have been eleven then....

Albert Gasparo

Regarding the relationship between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, Stravinsky himself states in his "An Autobiography" 1936, the extent of this encounter....he states that when he went to hear the fiftieth anniversary performance of "Ruslan and Ludmilla" in which his father took part he caught a glimpse of Tchaikovsky in the foyer.."whom I had never seen before and never was to see again"....he had just conducted the first performance of the "Pathetique"...this would place the incident in the last week of Tchaikovsky's life....he continues..."a fortnight later my mother took me to a concert where the same symphony was played in memory of its composer, who had been suddenly carried off by cholera"....he says "would become one of my most treasured memories."....he would have been 11 at the time.....that in sum is as far as it went....Albert Gasparo

Albert Gasparo

Thank you Mr. Gasparo for that additional information. I can only imagine how Stravinsky felt during that moments when he caught a glimpse of the famous composer. Indeed I would give anything to relive moments such as those, among others. It would be even better to have stumbled upon a possible video recording of Tchaikovsky, but I'm sure that's not even possible. Haha.


Michael Svoboda

09/05/2009 18:33

If you go to You Tube and look for ''Furtwangler conducts Stravinsky Divertimento "Le Baiser de la fee" 1/4 " you will come upon the first part of four videos of the Divertimento which is a concert suite based on the consists of Stravinsky's brilliant elaboration and orchestrations of a group of Tchaikovsky's lesser known piano pieces and songs ending with Stravinsky's version of ''None but the Lonely Heart"....the ballet is rendered in as close to Tchaikovsky's style as Stravinsky's talent allowed....Tchaikovsky was always one of Stravinsky's favorite composers from that day in the last days of Tchaikovsky's life when the young Stravinsky caught a sight of him in the foyer of the Marinsky Theatre at the fiftieth anniversary of "Ruslan and Ludmilla''..indeed on Stravinsky's death bed it was the "Pathetique" which was played I believe at his own request at his wife's protest due to the Russian belief that the Symphony signified death...

In 1927 Stravinsky was commissioned to write a ballet inspired by the music of he says in his ''An Autobiography"...."My well known fondness for the composer, and still more, the fact that November, the time fixed for the performance, would mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of his death, induced me to accept the offer. It would give me an opportunity of paying my heartfelt homage to Tchaikovsky's wonderful talent."....

The subject and scenario of the ballet was based on Hans Christian Anderson's story of ''The Ice Maiden" was meant to be an allegory on Tchaikovsky's life...he too was branded by the muse's fatal kiss as was the youth in the fairy tale....''and the magic imprint - of the muse's kiss - has made itself felt in all the musical creations of this great artist..."

For myself I remember that day in 1957 when Stravinsky conducted his Persephone, Symphony of Psalms and Firebird with the NY Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall commemorating his 75th birthday....the only time I ever saw him live....

Best Wishes,

AL Gasparo

12/11/2011 20:42

Here is more on Stravinsky's tribute to Tchaikovsky, The Fairy's Kiss...its origins and scenario...program notes originally written by Thomas May for a performance of the piece at The Kennedy Center...

''One of the most interesting masks Stravinsky chose during his French years between the wars as he toyed with musical idioms from the past was that of Tchaikovsky. Late into his life, he treasured his memory, as a boy, of catching a glimpse of the great man at a performance in St. Petersburg, just weeks before his death. For all his mockery of romantic sentiment, Stravinsky maintained a deeply abiding affection for Tchaikovsky from those earliest years in Russia. (Anxious to dissolve the paradox, some critics have, however, insisted on decoding his attitude as just another instance of Stravinskian irony.)

That affection is the basis for the ballet Stravinsky composed immediately following the premiere of his landmark 1928 ballet Apollo (commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge for the Library of Congress). Ida Rubinstein, the legendary fellow Russian who had long been a sensation in the Paris artistic scene as a dancer, muse, and patroness, was branching out from Diaghilev's Ballets Russes with her own ballet company and wanted a new composition by Stravinsky. Among her commissions for its inaugural 1928 season—which also included Ravel's Boléro—was the idea of an homage marking the 35th anniversary of Tchaikovsky's death in November of that year.

Stravinsky approached the project as a chance to channel Tchaikovsky, producing a fascinating new amalgam from material written by the latter. Years before, he had orchestrated a couple of sections Tchaikovsky cut before the premiere of Sleeping Beauty to use in Diaghilev's revival of the work. In this case, however, Stravinsky decided to draw from a wide variety of miniatures outside the domain of ballet—chiefly piano pieces and songs—and recombined them into a shimmering, brand-new orchestral fabric. He even chose a suitably Tchaikovskian scenario by adapting Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Ice Maiden—thus creating a synthetic "Tchaikovsky ballet" that Tchaikovsky never wrote.

The result, titled Le Baiser de la Fée ("The Fairy's Kiss"), mixes fragments from Tchaikovsky with Stravinskian feints so persuasively that the composer later observed he lost track of what belonged to whom. The story revolves around an ill-fated mortal whom the fairy's minions steal from his mother as a baby. The fairy bestows her kiss on him and returns in disguise when he is celebrating his engagement to his fiancée at a village fête. There she tricks the young man into declaring his love for her and then spirits him away to her realm "beyond time and place," kissing him once again "to the sound of her lullaby." Stravinsky dedicated his score to "the memory of Pyotr Tchaikovsky" and suggested an allegorical correlation "between his muse and this fairy." Like the fairy, "his muse similarly marked him with a fatal kiss, whose mysterious imprint manifests itself in every work of this great artist."

Several years after the ballet's premiere (it was later revised in 1950 for a new Balanchine production), Stravinsky reclaimed some of the music in an arrangement for piano and violin intended for Dushkin, which he called Divertimento. Similarly, in 1934 he prepared this concert suite of the same name, comprising about half of the music from the original four-scene ballet. Sinfonia is taken from the opening scene and depicts the mother lost with her child in the storm. The sprites steal him away in music meshing dramatic melodies with Stravinsky's rhythmic acuity.

The echoing horns, rambunctious trombones, and rustic touches of Danses Suisses fast forward us to the young man's engagement party in the second scene, where touches of Petroushka liven the festivity. In the Scherzo, the fairy (disguised as a gypsy) has guided the young man to the mill where his beloved is with her friends playing cards. Tchaikovsky's shadow stimulates an especially intriguing ventriloquism in the Pas de deux sequence from scene three as the lovers dance—perhaps the ballet's most transparently beautiful passage. Stravinsky scores at first for a warm combination of clarinet, harp, and solo cello, which then swells with emotion before leading into a delectable duet for flutes. The music speeds up for a coda, heralded by the timpani, that brings the dance to a peremptory close with knife-edged chords.''

Best Wishes,

AL Gasparo

13/11/2011 17:04

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