Trio Diaghilev - The Music

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Trio Diaghilev
Trio Diaghilev - Trio DiaghilevJDT 3117

Igor Stravinsky
1. Petrushka Suite
2. The Rite of Spring, Part One
3. The Rite of Spring, Part Two
Bela Bartok
4. The Miraculous Mandarin

Sound Samples:
Track 3. The Rite of Spring, Part Two
Real Audio | Windows Media
Track 4. The Miraculous Mandarin
Real Audio | Windows Media

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About This CD

The two great ballets Petrushka and Rite of Spring arose from the close artistic relationship between Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky. After the clamorous success of the Firebird (the first ballet commissioned to Stravinsky by the Russian manager.), he gave us Petrushka, a great painting of bright colors, almost blinding, which makes large use of unusual types of sonority and above all completely different from the previous work. The scene begins with a glowing carnival party (this is a pretext for mentioning numerous popular Russian songs and some street-songs) which serves only as a frame of the true drama: Petruska and his tragic and not returned love for the Ballerina. It doesn’t matter that he is only a puppet; Petruska, indeed, has a soul and his double nature (as a human being and as a marionette) is the key for the understanding of all the expressive climate, based on a dualism between incompatible realities. This dualism procreates dialectics, but also antagonism, conflicts and finally death (Petruska will die, killed by the moor, the lover of the Ballerina). For telling this unhappy and sentimental story, the genius of Stravinsky made use of the most imaginable antiromantic music. The types of sound are dry, cutting, and often dissonant. The phrasing is grotesque and caricatural. The expressive result is harrowing and comical at the same time. The images are the exact opposite and approached with violence (coherently with the scenic conception of Diaghilev). In conclusion, it is difficult to imagine a less conventional score that is so winning at the same time, thanks to his coloring and to his great descriptive efficacy. As well as the preceding, also this work was an extraordinary success and consolidated definitively the fame of Stravinsky.

The following step in Diaghilev-Stravinsky collaboration was in what Pierre Boulez called the “Corner-stone” of the modern music, or rather, the Rite of Spring (1913). Once more a sudden change of course. This work uses procedures of resonant organization so new and unusual that until now, this ballet continues to defy history. It marks forever the modernity of the century. It is a key-work which has no precedent. It seems to be born from bursting primeval uncontrolled forces. The subject heathen’s rites of Russian ancient history and among these a human sacrifice (in the Sacrificial Dance a young girl dances to be sacrificed to the God of Spring). Going back to the prehistory of man and absolutely coherent with the subject of his work, Stravinsky felt the need to destroy the order of the traditional musical forms and this extreme act marked the beginning of a new music age. “Behind Rite of Spring exists no tradition and no theory. I had only my ear to help me. I listened and wrote what I heard.” Stravinskij writes in Exposition and Developments. “Nobody ever heard such a brutal, aggressive, wild and apparently confused music. It struck the audience as a Hurricane”; these were the words of a reviewer who was present at the first performance. The Rite of Spring gave rise to one of the greatest scandals of music history. On 29 May 1913 the performance resulted in a deafening hubbub with fights breaking out among the audience and the police having to eject the worst offenders. However, the harshest sound and the most asymmetrical combination keep up with the involving rhythmical drive and with the expressive tumult. The popular melodies together with a poetic force made this masterpiece one of the most famous works of all times.

Great polemics and harsh tumults marked also the first representation of Der Wunderbare Mandarin by BŽla Bart—k which occurred in 1925 at Cologne. This work, composed in 1918/19, has been often compared with the Rite of Spring because of its piercing expressiveness, even though the relationship between the two ballets is quite superficial. The Mandarin, indeed, shows the influence, which the German expressionism and the Wiener Schule, exerted on Bart—k. The scandalous subject stopped the integral performance for seventeen years. The story: three bandits obliged a young woman to allure the passers-by for robbing them. Among these is a Chinese mandarin who looks dreadful; the woman is forced to seduce him, until stirring up an uncontrollable passion. At that moment the three delinquents intervene. After having robbed the mandarin, they tried to kill him, at first suffocating him, then running him through with a sword, and finally hanging him from a hook. But all their efforts are ineffective: the mandarin could only die, when the woman would decide to give him herself, satisfying his desire. The extreme violence of the images and the crude and explicit eroticism seemed absolutely intolerable to the spectator of this period. Bart—k inwardly lives the great crisis of musical language at the beginning of 1900 with an exemplary awareness, looking desperately for new expressive resolutions. Disquieting, exasperated, haunted sounds arise from such a feverish search; these sounds are so radical in regard to their experimentalism and originality and at the same time so expressive, involving and effective to describe minutely every gesture, every psychological nuance of the drama. Thanks also to its great rhythmic vitality, the Mandarin today is one of the most famous, loved and appreciated works of the great Hungarian Maestro.
Mario Totaro

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