In this program Rachel Lee Priday focuses on four different composers during World War I and beyond who looked to the past in crafting a distinctive musical language. Each work in “Chaos and Elegance” presents a novel vision of order, amalgamating influences past and present.
Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, based on his 1920 neoclassical ballet Pulcinella, playfully injects Baroque forms in the style of Pergolesi with touches of modernist astringency. Of Pulcinella, Stravinsky wrote, “It was a backward look, of course…but it was a look in the mirror, too.” Elgar’s introspective Violin Sonata, written at the end of World War I during a final spurt of creativity, has a nostalgic and autumnal quality: “I fear it does not carry us any further,” the composer acknowledged, “but it is full of golden sounds.” Though Respighi was known for drawing inspiration from early Italian music and ancient Rome, his Violin Sonata is written in a lush and Romantic language. However, both Respighi’s and Shostakovich’s great Violin Sonata base their final movement on the Passacaglia, a variation form which originated in early seventeenth-century Spain. Shostakovich’s Sonata also makes use of Jewish klezmer music and nods to serialism throughout the piece. Yet it is the sound of funeral bells, recalled from earlier moments, that brings the work to a close.
Works on “Chaos and Elegance” include:
Stravinsky, Suite Italienne
Respighi, Violin Sonata in B Minor
Elgar, Violin Sonata in E Minor, Op. 82
Shostakovich, Violin Sonata in G Major, Op. 134