Strauss thought that metamorphosis − the slow transformation − was the reason for the end of tonality around the year 1900. This granted him an unwarranted reputation for being conservative, while granting the world some uncommmonly grandiose, gripping orchestral works and richly evocative songs. Stravinsky, for his part, opted for completely new solutions — such as using two or more keys simultaneously — and there is nothing better to evoke the portrait of Petrushka, both puppet and human, or the milling life on the market square, where the sounds of accordions, merchants and carousels all blend into one.
Richard Strauss (1864−1949) never offered a clear answer to what he meant with the title Metamorphosen (1945), but the time of composition have led many to speculate on whether the gruesome changes wrought by war might have served as a critical source of inspiration. The captivating work is written for twenty-three independent strings − a quite particular orchestration which produces a very unusual effect in the concert hall. His sonorous and powerful songs are equally impressive, especially when performed by a world class soprano such as Lise Davidsen.
Far less concrete and direct, but no less subtle, was Igor Stravinsky (1882−1971) when he set music to the tale of the puppet Petrushka, who, like the Ballerina and the Moor, springs to life and embarks on a devastating ménage à trois. The ballet, which is from 1911, and was revised in 1947, has become a milestone in the Russian ballet tradition. Stravinsky’s genius lay in using two keys simultaneously in order to demonstrate the doubleness of Petrushka as both puppet and human, and, not least, in the innovative and imaginative writing for orchestra as shown throughout the work. It doesn’t take much to clearly envision the plot or the surroundings, even when listening to the pure concert version.
(Text: Thomas Erma Møller; Translation (from Norwegian): Sarah Osa; In photo: Lise Davidsen; Photo: Charlotte Gundersen)
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