Next concert: Sunday 22nd March 2015, New Hall, Winchester College
Stravinsky: 1919 Concert Suite for Orchestra no. 2, "The Firebird"
1. Introduction—The Firebird and its dance—The Firebird's variation;
2. The Princesses Khorovod (Rondo, round dance);
3. Infernal dance of King Kashchei;
4. Berceuse (Lullaby);
Passionately opposed to the socialist realism movements spearheaded by Tolstoy, the impresario Diaghilev led a counter-movement of artistic activity attracted principally towards Western art, with the fruits of intense activity resulting in the sensational seasons of his Ballets Russes. The young Stravinsky, having already broken away from the Rimsky-Korsakov mould and the recognisable influence of Brahms and Glazunov in his earlier works, was seen by Diaghilev to be perfectly ready to join this artistic group and break new ground with his proposed ballet, The Firebird. Stravinsky did not disappoint, the first performance turning him into an instant celebrity. From this triumph Stravinsky drew two further orchestral suites, the second of which will be presented in this concert by The Winchester Symphony Orchestra. Opening with a nocturnal picture of Kashkei’s enchanted garden, the Firebird dances with trill, flourish and tremolo around the captured princesses until finally casting the wicked King to sleep with her mesmerising lullaby, thus releasing the beautiful princesses from the monstrous spell to deliverance with dazzling brass fanfares.
Brahms: Symphony no. 1 in C minor, op. 68
I. Un poco sostenuto – Allegro
II. Andante sostenuto
III. Un poco allegretto e grazioso
IV. Adagio – Piu andante – Allegro non troppo, ma con brio
By contrast, Brahms tells no story and dances no ballet, never departs from the strict four movement structure, does not name his symphonies nor incorporate a sung text; considered to be more conservative than his predecessor Beethoven, yet his stern rigour in theme development is ever dependable and displays consummate mastery of his craft. He was over forty years old before he even embarked on symphonic writing and the Winchester Symphony Orchestra will open the concert with Brahms’ first foray into this ‘classical’ world. His vigorous and individual scoring marks him out as a composer who does not try to impress with novelty, yet who satisfies with melodic and rhythmic invention as challenging as it is deceptive.