Our music for this week is the Divertimento for Violin and Piano (or, in this case, orchestra) by Igor Stravinsky. In fact, you’ll only be hearing the fourth movement, as performed by my favorite violinist Augustin Hadelich with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
As you might be able to tell from the style of the piece, the Divertimento was originally a movement from a ballet titled “The Fairy’s Kiss” that Stravinsky wrote in 1928. It is said that Stravinsky, who admired his Russian predecessor Tchaikovsky but also hated the fact that Tchaikovsky was more famous than he was, viewed this ballet as the moment he surpassed Tchaikovsky in terms of musical greatness. While I can’t vouch for one or the other, I can positively affirm this piece as being a wonderful example of the transition between Romantic and 20th-century classical music. Stravinsky does an unbelievable job of blending the newness of the 20th-century atmosphere with the rich and historical folk melodies of Russian music that are so often heard in Tchaikovsky’s music.
I”ve written about Augustin Hadelich in earlier emails (if you are interested in reading about his amazing rise to international fame, go find the email on Brahms’ violin concerto), so here are a few notes about the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The Orpheus is the world’s premiere chamber (miniature) orchestra. Created in 1972 by a few NYC musicians who enjoyed chamber music, it quickly separated itself from the crowd by pledging to never rehearse or perform – or even hire – a conductor. In this sense, Orpheus is truly unique – it is almost an enlarged quartet rather than a small orchestra.