02.07 / su / 20:00—21:30

Stravinsky: Persephone, Symphony of Psalms

Shpagin Plant, House of Music

Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971)

Symphony of Psalms for Choir and Orchestra (1930, second edition 1948)

Persephone, a melodrama for speaker, soloists, choir, dancers and orchestra based on a libretto by André Gide (1933)

The musicAeterna Orchestra and Choir
Guest actors and soloists
Alexander Ponomaryov "Vesna" Children's Choir

Director – Anna Guseva
Conductor – Teodor Currentzis

Persephone – Aisylu Mirhafizkhan
Eumolpus – Egor Semenkov

in memory of Herman Vinogradov
Introduction to the play "Persephone. Symphony of Psalms"
based on the poem by Theodor Currentzis "In the month of Anthesterion"
and a fragment from the tragedy of Aeschylus "Prometheus Chained"
Composer: Teodor Currentzis

orchestra and chorus of musicAeterna 
Lada Raskolnikova – sounding constructions of Bikapo
Egor Ananko, Viktoria Kharkevich, Marko Nikodijevic, Luka Kozlovacki – friu  
Vera Sazhina – voice, shamanic tambourine
Yorgos Kaloudis – classical cretan lyre
Alexey Retinsky – cauldron
Sofia Hill – voicein memory of Herman Vinogradov

"The Symphony of Psalms" is one of the most influential works of the 20th century and the most famous of Stravinsky's opuses on a religious theme. Stravinsky's composition has little in common with classical symphonies of the 19th century – as a representative of modernity he was looking for a new expressiveness in it, restrained and devoid of romantic sentiments. The search took him deep into the past, to Bach and the masters of the early Baroque - Giovanni Gabrieli and Schutz with their "Sacred Symphonies". Stravinsky removes "emotional" violins, violas and clarinets from the orchestra, increases the number of wind instruments to get an archaic, organ sonority, and suggests using children's voices instead of women's in the choir. The instruments and voices participate on equal terms in his complex contrapuntal fabric, in the notes one finds typical Renaissance and Baroque madrigalisms – sound illustrations for words and visual images.

The relationship between the spiritual and the secular in the "Symphony of Psalms" is well reflected in the wording of its dedication: "Composed for the glory of God for the Boston Orchestra on the occasion of its 50th anniversary". Having received an order for a concert composition, Stravinsky used it to reflect on the topics that worried him, and interpreted the publisher's request to "compose something popular" in his own way. Having no intention to adapt the music to the mass taste, he used psalms – "poems of praise, but also of anger and judgment, and even curses" – as a well-known ("popular") primary source. The "Symphony of Psalms" freely refers to the musical styles of three Christian denominations at once, without trying to fit the church usage. At the same time, it remains a personal and rather direct religious statement, in which, by Stravinsky's standards, there is surprisingly little irony.

Stravinsky calls "Perséphone" a melodrama, but it's not about a sentimental love story – rather, he means a special form of "reading to music", a common practice at the beginning of the 20th century. From a theatrical point of view, this is a composition of a mixed genre, which combines singing and recitation, an antique choir and lullabies, pantomime and statuesque mise en scene. "Perséphone" was created by order of Ida Rubinstein as a ballet – but it does not resemble the usual dance performances. Its syncretic form refers rather to the "ballets" of Monteverdi's time, in which there was sometimes much more singing than dancing.

In "Perséphone" Stravinsky yet again composes the ritual of spring – albeit not exactly the same as in "The Rite of Spring". Here the music is softer and more lyrical, the orchestra rarely plays in full force, and the myth underlying the plot is not Proto-Slavic, but Antique. Greek mythology and culture in general are extremely important for Stravinsky: resurrecting the pre-Romantic artistic ideal in his work, he restores the attitude to the Antiquity as a model, a living practice, and not as history.

In Stravinsky's and Andre Gide's version, Persephone turns out to be a proto-Christian figure – a child of the gods who voluntarily descended into the underworld out of pity for the souls suffering there and resurrected to a new life under the final stanzas of the choir, in the text of which researchers see references to the parable of the wheat grain from the Gospel of John (12:24). Into the image of Persephone, doomed to wander between two worlds, Stravinsky could also put the personal experiences of an artist standing (like all artists) on the border between aesthetic pleasure in an ivory tower and the bitter reality of daily human suffering.