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Stravinsky: Svadebka (Les Noces)

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Title : Stravinsky: Svadebka (Les Noces)
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Stravinsky: Svadebka (Les Noces)

Stravinsky's piece for vocal soloists, choir, four pianos and percussion was begun in 1917 (though conceived earlier) and premiered in 1923. It is a work strongly based on Russian folklore, particularly the melodies, lyrics and traditions of the peasant wedding. In English we should probably just call it "The Wedding." The piece is the culmination of years of exhaustive study of Russian folklore that included the composition of Petrushka, the Rite of Spring, Pribaoutki and other pieces. Stravinsky's reputation as an uncompromising modernist that de-emphasizes the Russian traditions is one that Taruskin specifically set out to correct in his two-volume work on Stravinsky. Of course, Stravinsky utterly transformed the folk material, but its influence is deep and thorough. The other modern composer who owes a great deal to folklore is Bartók, but that has always been prominently acknowledged by the composer himself. With Stravinsky it is more complex as his own relationship with his Russian origins changed as he settled outside Russia, living in France, Switzerland and ultimately the US.

I am going to write more about Svadebka in future posts. One thing I notice already is that this has been a difficult work to perform and many older performances are stiff or awkward. Here is a recent one that is very convincing. This is MusicAeterna conducted by Teodor Currentzis.

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