Divertimento

Igor Stravinsky’s DIVERTIMENTO is an original transcription of his neoclassical one-act, four-scene ballet The Fairy’s Kiss (1928), based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale  The Ice-Maiden. The work is homage to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 35th birthday and was commissioned by the famous Russian ballerina Ida Rubinstein. It was premiered in Paris on November 27th,  1928, choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska. Later in 1950, the ballet was reworked for George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet.

In his dialogues with Robert Craft, Stravinsky did not specify which pieces by Tchaikovsky he drew upon. He says that his choice of music was guided by the fact that none of them were orchestrated by Tchaikovsky, so he used only piano pieces and songs. He chose Andersen’s  The Ice-Maiden because he saw it as an allegory of Tchaikovsky himself – the fairy’s kiss on the child’s heel is the muse that marked Tchaikovsky’s genius at birth.

In 1932 Samuel Dushkin and the composer produced the famous version  of The Fairy’s Kiss for violin and piano alone, entitled Divertimento. Two years later (1934) he orchestrated the same music in a concert suite of the same name. There he used almost half the music from the original ballet. He revised it in 1949.

Divertimento consists of four movements: Sinfonia is taken from the first scene of the ballet and describes a disoriented mother lost with her child in a storm. As in Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, the fairy spirits steal the baby from the mother. The next section, Danses suisses describes an engagement party for the child, who is now a grown man. In Scherzo (Au moulin), the fairy leads the young man to a mill where his fiancée is with her friends. The music in the last movement, Pas de deux is charming in its elegance.

Famous for his transcriptions, the violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky in 2015 created a version of Stravinsky’s The Fairy’s Kiss for violin and symphony orchestra, commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and premiered by Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich at Carnegie Hall.

Sitkovetsky shares that he has since performed it many times – in Moscow, Tokyo, Ljubljana, Israel and beyond: ‘This is a wonderful piece of music in four movements – full of Tchaikovsky motifs in Stravinsky’s whimsical rhythms and masterful orchestration. It requires not only virtuoso soloists but also a virtuoso orchestra.”

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