Program 98
"Two Stravinsky Ballets in One Hour"


MUSIC: clip from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Overture with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Robert Craft [Naxos 8.557503, all music in this program is from this compact disc recording]  [under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your host, Fred Flaxman. Stay tuned and we’ll explore “Two Stravinsky Ballets in One Hour:”  Pulcinella and The Fairy’s Kiss. The performances are by the Philharmonia Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra, both conducted by Robert Craft. The soloists in Pulcinella include Diana Montague, Robin Leggate and Mark Beesley.

MUSIC: fades out

Stravinsky’s 1920 Pulcinella, is an unusual ballet in several respects. First of all, it has songs for a soprano, tenor and bass. Second of all, the words to those songs have nothing to do with the ballet’s story. Thirdly, the ballet’s story is particularly convoluted. Fourthly, the music was based on what Stravinsky thought was music by Pergolesi, but half of it was apparently by other composers. Fifth of all, Picasso was hired to do the scenery. Sixth of all, Ottorino Respighi was originally commissioned by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes to do the music and Stravinsky only came in when Respighi dropped out. And finally, despite all this, the ballet all comes together very nicely and has been a big success.

MUSIC: from the above recording starts and goes under

Robert Craft summarized the story in the program notes that go along with his CD. The action takes place in Naples, Italy, and the characters are taken from the commedia dell’arte. On at least one occasion, this commedia dell’arte atmosphere is reflected by the music in the form of a slapstick duet between the trombone and the double bass.

MUSIC: example of the above

MUSIC: clip from the beginning of the ballet under

In the beginning of the ballet Rosetta and Prudenza respond to the serenading of Caviello and Florindo by dousing them with water.

A dottore arrives and chases the musical pair away. Pulcinella enters, dances, and attracts Prudenza, who tries to embrace him. He rejects her.

MUSIC: new section starts and goes under

Rosetta appears, chaperoned by her father Tartaglia.  She tells him of her love for Pulcinella, for whom she dances. He kisses her, but is seen by Pimpinella, his mistress, who becomes jealous.

Caviella and Florindo  re-enter in disguise, and Florindo, jealous of Pulcinella, stabs him. When the would-be lovers leave, Pulcinella cautiously gets up. Four little Pulcinellas enter, carrying the body of Furbo disguised as Pulcinella. They place the body on the floor.

The Doctor and Tartaglia enter with their daughters, who are horrified. A magician appears and revives the corpse. When the fathers refuse to believe the miracle, the magician removes his cloak and reveals himself to be the real Pulcinella. The revived corpse is his friend Furbo. Pimpinella enters but is frightened at the sight of two Pulcinellas. Florindo and Caviella return, disguised as -- you guessed it -- Pulcinellas, hoping for more satisfaction in their amorous pursuits.

The confusion caused by four Pulcinellas prompts Furbo to resume his magician disguise. At the end, the Pulcinella couples, including Pimpinella and the ballet’s hero, are reunited and married.

MUSIC: as much of the ballet as we can fit in

Some of the music to Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella. Robert Craft conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra.

You are listening to "Two Stravinsky Ballets in One Hour" on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute station cutaway not included in 57:53 total timing]

This Naxos compact disc also includes Stravinsky’s 1928 ballet The Fairy’s Kiss -- le Baiser de la fée. It is in four scenes and the scenario comes from a story by Hans Christian Andersen called The Ice Maiden. The music is based on piano pieces and songs by Tchaikovsky. They are linked by passages Stravinsky composed in a similar style.

Which brings me to a point I’d like to make about both of these ballets. They are full of beautiful melodies, few of which were written by Stravinsky, yet he manages to turn them into Stravinsky-like pieces with his orchestrations, modern harmonies, dissonances and rhythms.

MUSIC: from The Fairy’s Kiss under the following

The first scene in The Fairy’s Kiss is called “The lullaby in the storm.” In it a mother with her child struggle through a storm. The Fairy’s attendant spirits appear and pursue her. They separate her from the infant and carry him off. The Fairy herself appears. She approaches the child and enfolds him with her tenderness. Then she kisses him on the forehead and goes away. Country folk, passing, find him all alone, and they search in vain for his mother. Deeply distressed, they take him with them.

MUSIC: continues until the end of Scene I

MUSIC: for Scene II under

The next scene is called “A Village fête.” A peasant dance is in progress, with musicians on the stage. Among the dancers are a young man and his fiancée. The musicians and the crowd disperse. The fiancée goes away with them and the young man remains alone.

The Fairy approaches him in the guise of a gypsy woman. She takes his hand and tells his fortune. Then she dances and, ever increasingly, subjects him to her will. She talks of his romance and promises him great happiness. Captivated by her words, he begs her to lead him to his fiancée.

MUSIC: continues until the end of Scene II

MUSIC: for Scene III under

Next is “At the Mill.”

Guided by the Fairy, the young man arrives at the mill, where he finds his fiancée among her friends playing games. The Fairy disappears. They all dance. Then the girl goes with her friends to put on her wedding veil. The young man is left alone.

The Fairy appears, wearing a wedding veil. The young man, unfortunately, takes her for his bride. He goes towards her, enraptured, and addresses her in the terms of warmest passion. Suddenly the Fairy throws off her veil.

Dumbfounded, to say the least, the young man realizes his mistake. He tries to free himself, but in vain. He is defenseless before the supernatural power of the Fairy. Now she will take him away to a land beyond time and place, where she will again kiss him, this time on the sole of the foot.

MUSIC: Continues to the end of Scene III

MUSIC: for Scene IV under

The Fairy’s attendant spirits group themselves in slow movements of great tranquillity before a wide décor representing the infinite space of the heavens.  The Fairy and the young man appear on a ridge. She kisses him to the sound of her lullaby.

The young man is Tchaikovsky himself. The Fairy is his devilish muse.

The ending of Stravinsky’s homage to Tchaikovsky is rarely heard in ballet performances at present. George Balanchine’s abbreviated version of the ballet concludes with the peasant’s dance. But this recording includes the original ending.

MUSIC: continues until the end of the ballet

The music to Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, The Fairy’s Kiss performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by  Robert Craft.

MUSIC: clip from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Overture with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Robert Craft [Naxos 8.557503, all music in this program is from this compact disc recording]  [under the following]

And that brings to an end this hour of Compact Discoveries. I hope you enjoyed hearing “Two Stravinsky Ballets in One Hour.” This is Fred Flaxman thanking Robert Craft for providing the program notes I made use of for this program... and you for listening.

Scripts for every Compact Discoveries program are available on the internet at www.compactdiscoveries.com. The website also includes listener comments, articles, and information about national underwriting. You can even see what programs I’m working on for the future and contribute ideas for future themes and pieces to be played.

Compact Discoveries is a registered trademark and production of Compact Discoveries, Inc. This program was made possible in part by the members of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC: ends at 57:53

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