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Bernadette’s vision, a cantabile flute melody offset by strings and harp, brings a change of air, though there is disquiet in this Andante’s middle section, as well as sparely eloquent writing for string quartet. The brass, silent except for horns here, goose-steps into action near the start of the third movement – an image of military force as graphic as anything in the later symphonies of Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Stravinsky was unequivocal on the imagery of German arrogance, overturned and immobile in the fugue launched by trombone and piano before the Allies fight against the first movement’s ‘rumba’ figure and move on to victory. The composer’s disingenuous claim, ‘in spite of what I have said, the Symphony is not programmatic’ is best interpreted by noting that the description does not account for some of the surprisingly good-humoured invention along the way. It is, then, a symphony with war footage, but nothing as straightforward as a ‘war symphony’.

Programme note © David Nice

Hear this

Tue 26 & Fri 29 Jun 7pm (please note earlier start time) Berlioz Benvenuto Cellini

Sir Colin Davis conductor Soloists include: Giuseppe Sabbatini Cellini Laura Claycomb Teresa | Peter Coleman-Wright Fieramosca London Symphony Chorus

26 Jun Takeda Global Concert Tickets £6 £12 £18 £24 £30 Book now at lso.co.uk or 020 7638 8891

Composer Notes

A brief guide to Stravinsky

The son of the Principal Bass at the Mariinsky Theatre, Stravinsky was born at the Baltic resort of Oranienbaum near St Petersburg in 1882. Through his father he met many of the leading musicians of the day and came into contact with the world of the musical theatre. In 1903 he became a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, which allowed him to get his orchestral works performed and as a result he came to the attention of Sergey Diaghilev, who commissioned a new ballet from him, The Firebird.

The success of The Firebird, and then Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913) confirmed his status as a leading young composer. Stravinsky now spent most of his time in Switzerland and France, but continued to compose for Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes: Pulcinella (1920), Mavra (1922), Renard (1922), Les Noces (1923), Oedipus Rex (1927) and Apollo (1928).

Stravinsky settled in France in 1920, eventually becoming a French citizen in 1934, and during this period moved away from his Russianism towards a new ‘neo-classical’ style. Personal tragedy in the form of his daughter, wife and mother all dying within eight months of each other, and the onset of the Second World War persuaded Stravinsky to move to America in 1939, where he lived until his death. From the 1950s, his compositional style again changed, this time in favour of a form of serialism. He continued to take on an exhausting schedule of conducting engagements until 1967, and died in New York in 1971. He was buried in Venice on the island of San Michele, close to the grave of Diaghilev.

Profile © Andrew Stewart

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