Stravinsky Lovers Unite!

by Sedgwick Clark

Alastair Macaulay’s review in Thursday’s Times reminded me of the two-week Stravinsky-Balanchine mini-festival that opens New York City Ballet’s fall season. No performing organization in the world offers so much Stravinsky in a single season—and so authoritatively. These two weeks commemorate NYCB’s 1972 and 1982 Stravinsky festivals; I saw every program of both those festivals. There are only three programs this time around, and every music and ballet fan should see them. I’ll have more to say when I have.

The Dying Artform on TV

I resist hitting the mute button when I hear classical “beds” for TV commercials. Within five minutes last week, a movement from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons served as background to Donald Sutherland’s Delta commercial, followed by another baroque beauty in the next round of commercials. A couple of hours later on Nightline, the ominous pulsating of waves lapping onto the beach of Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead underscored a commercial for The Master, a new movie starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’m definitely interested in hearing how the music is used, and reviews were positive, so if it’s still in the theaters when my MA Directory deadline is over I won’t wait for the video.


The Republicans scorn fact checking, but the Mannes School shouldn’t. Descriptions of two Mannes orchestra concerts in a press release sent my mind reeling. In an effort to be kind, I won’t divulge the young author’s name and assume that he likes the music.

On Friday, September 28 at 7:30 p.m., the orchestra will perform Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin, an act from the early 20th century pantomime ballet Trauer-Symphonie by Haydn, and Bernard Herrmann’s North by Northwest Suite.

On Tuesday, October 30 at 7:30 p.m., the program will include work from The Firebird by Stravinsky and Ravel’s Daphnis et Cholé Suite No. 2.

In the first concert, the students will almost certainly play Bartók’s 20-minute Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin, not the complete version with chorus. Let’s further assume that a comma is missing after “ballet” and that Haydn did not arrange Bartók’s music into separate acts and retitle the work Trauer-Symphonie. Still, what does “an act from the early 20th century pantomime ballet” mean? Bartók’s continuous half-hour ballet has no “acts,” although there are three “decoy games” where three tramps force a girl to seduce men from the street into an apartment to rob them. The suite contains all three of the decoy games.

I haven’t heard of an official North by Northwest Suite. If I were in town, I’d probably go to this concert just to hear how much of this great Herrmann film score would be played. But I’ve got all the recordings and a laserdisc and two DVDs of the film. (I see that a Blu-ray version has just been released too.)

As for the second concert, what in heaven’s name does “work from The Firebird” specify? The complete 45-minute ballet music? One of Stravinsky’s suites (1910, 1919, or 1945)? And the unfortunate typo in Ravel’s ballet suite makes poor Chloé sound like an intestinal bacterium.

Looking Forward

My week’s scheduled concerts:

9/19 Avery Fisher Hall. New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert; Leif Ove Andsnes, piano. Kurtág:  …quasi una fantasia … . Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3. Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring. OPENING NIGHT.

9/20 Miller Theater. ICE/Steven Schick; Jessica Aszodi, mezzo. Cage: Music for ___; Variations III; Atlas Eclipticalis; Radio Music; 1’5½” for a string player; Amores; The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs. Boulez: Le marteau sans maître.

9/24 Alice Tully Hall. Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Mozart: Serenade in C minor for Winds, K. 388. Kodály: Serenade for Two Violins and Viola, Op. 12. R. Strauss: Serenade in E-flat for Winds, Op. 7. Dvořák: Serenade in D minor for Winds, Cello, and Double Bass, Op. 44. OPENING NIGHT.

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