Revue Boléro – honoring the complex intentions of the composer

First performed by the Ballets Russes in Paris in 1923, with choreography by Bronislava Nijinska, Les Noces (The Wedding) was reputedly Stravinsky’s favorite of all his works. By any measure, it is one of his greatest and most original creations, as much a landmark in 20th century modernism as the most famous Rite of Spring, but it is a score that has took 10 years to reach the form in which it is usually heard today – singers accompanied by detuned and tuned percussion, including a piano quartet.

Stravinsky had first conceived the idea of ​​a ballet based on the wedding rituals of Russian peasants in 1913. He completed the work’s short score four years later, and in 1919 began orchestrating for an ensemble two cimbaloms, harmonium, pianola and percussion. . Yet he abandoned this score after only a few scenes, deciding (wrongly as it happened) that it would be impossible to coordinate the mechanical pianola with the live instrumentalists and singers. But in 2007 Dutch composer Theo Verbey continued where Stravinsky left off, completing the remaining scenes of the 1919 version, with the pianola playing a central role.

This is the version recorded here, sung in Russian with the voices of the Aedes Ensemble and the instrumentalists of Les Siècles, conducted by Mathieu Romano. They make a superb case for what was after all the initial conception of Les Noces – leaner, more down to earth and more economical than the later familiar version, a sonic world that seems to match even more convincingly the vocal writing of folk inspiration.

The Stravinsky was originally prepared for a ballet coupling Les Noces with another work choreographed for the first time by Nijinska, Ravel’s Boléro, which is performed in an arrangement by Robin Melchior for the same voice and instrument formation. What seems like an unlikely reworking of a piece that seems to rely so heavily on Ravel’s brilliant orchestration turns out surprisingly well. The vocals dominate, with the instruments largely in support, though there are striking sections where the angular harmonium and insistent pianola take the lead. It’s beautifully done, but still a curiosity really; the Stravinsky makes the record interesting.

The other choice of the week

The Nights of Paris, subtitled Dance Music from Folies Bergère to Opéra, is Bru Zane’s latest album from the Siècles in their more familiar period-instrument band form, led by François-Xavier Roth. It is a collection of lollipops, a mixture of the well-known – Valse des Patineurs by Waldteufel, Valse Lente by Coppélia by Delibes – and the obscure, like the ballet music of Chevalier Jean by Victorin Joncières, or Ouistiti-Polka by Philippe Musard. Everything is very French, and presented with great flair and warmth by Roth and his orchestra.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *