Composer Igor Stravinsky conducts the Toronto Symphony in the ending of his own ballet “Pulcinella.” This is in 1967, very late in his life, the latest I’ve seen him conducting on film. He would have been about 85 here. Stravinsky is sometimes criticized for having been a poor conductor. Though there is a fair amount of sloppy playing here, he reveals himself as a lively podium presence, alert to rhythm, tempo and the trenchant cue.
The composer’s acknowledgement of the applause is also affecting.
Here are those 11 beats in Part II of Stravinsky’s “Le sacre du printemps” (today is the anniversary of its 1913 premiere) in 103 different performances. Warning: This is bizarre.
I happened upon this photo the other day — the composer Igor Stravinsky with a cat.
My son and I were curious about the watch — Stravinsky was always a dapper dresser — and we came upon this (click on photo to enlarge, see lower left):
See also: That time Philip Glass was in a whisky ad
I was listening to this recording again the other night for the first time in a while and was struck by not only how good the performance was but also by how it must be quite close to how this piece sounded at the premiere in 1913 (or at least what you could hear over the riot and jeers).
Pierre Monteux was the conductor at the premiere and he led an orchestra of French musicians, as here. French orchestras in the 1950s still had a distinctive sound (tart and clear), and the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra is captured in fine stereo sound in this recording, made in 1956. The performance is not as slick or as powerful as they have become in our time, but it is incisive and primitive and teeming. I’ll post just the first two sections below (the others are available on YouTube). Monteux said he always pictured the dancers at the premiere in his head whenever he conducted the score subsequently.
My last piano lesson in the series. Recording coming soon.
Lesson Eight: Motivation and nerves. OC Music and Dance blog, Aug. 31, 2017.
Stravinsky’s music is often thought of as a relentlessly bold, spiky and angular, but he also wrote in gentle pastels. Here’s one such piece, his Andante for piano four hands (which I’m learning at the moment).
And now listen to his enchanting orchestration of same.