Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stravinsky: Influences and Development, part 3

Reading Taruskin is a delight because his learning is so wide-ranging. For example, in continuing to set the scene for Stravinsky's artistic development he discusses the trends and movements in art, especially of the World of Art (Mir iskusstva) circle. A kind of mystical archaism was a fashion among the Russian Symbolists which led to the Scythianism and neoprimitivism of the last years of the old regime. One painting in particular he cites is Terror Antiquus by Leon Bakst (1866–1924), painted in 1908, showing a kore presiding over the destruction of an ancient city:

Diaghilev and Benois' retrospective interests, as apostles of aristocratic aestheticism, tended more towards the 18th century. In 1905 Diaghilev organized an enormous exhibition of portraiture from 1700 to 1900 in the Tauride Palace. After this triumph, Diaghilev turned his eyes to the West and embarked on a project to celebrate the spirit of Russia in Europe. Synthesism, the group's attitude towards theatre, and neonationalism, their attitude toward Russian folklore, would both prove important.

The first musician that the Diaghilev circle worked with was not Stravinsky, but Nikolai Cherepnin whose skills as a conductor as well as a composer proved useful. The premiere performance of the Ballets Russes in 1909 featured Cherepnin's ballet Le pavillon d'Armide. As Taruskin notes, "these exquisitely crafted and 'painterly' little sketches already forecast the Russian ballet ideal in embryo." [op. cit. p. 453]

Let's listen to the suite from the ballet. This is the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz conducted by Igor Blashkov:

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