Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wodiczko Conducts Stravinsky

In 1930 Igor Stravinsky composed Symphony of Psalms. It was first in the series of his three symphonies. Decade of twentieth in Stravinsky’s work is often described as neoclassical phase of his creative development. And this was main direction in the time he intended to write symphony. He felt he was able to renew as the idea of musical construction and as medium for deep emotional and philosophical meanings. So when he received a commission for composition devoted to 50 years anniversary of Boston Symphony Orchestra he chose form of symphony. This time, after decade of experiences with neoclassical style, symphony was for Stravinky the leading idea of classical balance and intellectual plenitude. 
Trying to accomplish his idea, Stravinsky referred to the primary area of European culture, which implement the most important axiological problems. So he turned to religious tradition and used in his symphony some short fragments taken from Psalms in Latin – 38th Exaudi orationem meam, Domine, 31st Expectus expectavi Dominum, 150th Alleluia, laudate Dominum. Composed of universal religious phrases but exceeding any denotation Symphony of Psalms is unique piece of work. Stravinsky was intended to wrote for male singers but it was resulted by assumption of the work. Composing Symphony he expanded vocal group to the mixed choir with the proposition to use boys instead of female singers. Symphony of Psalms is unbelievably condensed, polyphonic work for choir and orchestra. Three movements of the symphony are linked to a form of organic unity, where polyphonic elaboration is discreet and integrated into a significant musical and verbal structure. The effect is profoundly moving, inventive and solemn.

Igor Stravinsky - Symphony of Psalms, Firebird Suite - Wodiczko (1973)

Although the Symphony of Psalms is one of the greatest works in twentieth-century music, this work has never been appreciated according to its artistic value. Otherwise than ballet music which was always Stravinsky’s specialty. Compositions for scene, connected to visual and dramatic case were more readable, thus even some difficult musical fragments were much closer to the public acceptance. His ballet music was always sounded quite well as concert pieces, even though many complicated passages and fragments were difficult to common concert audiences in first half of 20th century. Giving his first great ballet more chance for concert performances, composer set three suites in 1911, 1919 and 1945. The first great success, Firebird ballet music owes its success to the 1911 Firebird suite which was perfect orchestral music as well. This value was clearly part of composers idea fulfilling in his subsequent ballets, increasingly more compact and condensed.
These two great works, Symphony of Psalms and Firebird suite were first phonographic presentation of Igor Stravinsky’s music in Poland. Album was recorded in 1971 for main Polish label of this time Muza – Polskie Nagrania. Both performances were conducted by Bohdan Wodiczko and both were played by Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra – today Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice. Since 1935, when this orchestra was founded by Grzegorz Fitelberg and after war outbreak this institution was one of leading orchestras in Polish music. Recording Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms Wodiczko was artistic director and first conductor of the orchestra. Performing set was been augmented in Symphony of Psalms with vocal part sung by The Cracow Radio Choir (led by Adam Pałka). Album has been published two years later and in October 1973 awarded with prize of Polish musical industry „Złota Muza” 1973. This award was well deserved. The inclusion of two works of Stravinsky is as fresh as deeply thought-out and related to the essence of the great composer's music.

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