Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra
Stravinsky designed the Capriccio to be a virtuosic vehicle which would allow him to earn a living from playing the piano part. The Capriccio, together with the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, belonged to a catalogue of breadwinning pieces which Stravinsky composed to support himself after fleeing the Russian Revolution to live in Western Europe.
The Allegro capriccioso movement that would become the finale was begun first, in Nice on Christmas Day 1928, and provided the musical material from which the other movements grew. It was followed by the second movement, completed at Echarvines on 13 September 1929, and then by the opening Presto. The orchestration of the first movement was completed on 26 October and that of the last movement on 9 November 1929 (White 1979, 355–56).
The premiere took place in the Salle Pleyel, Paris, on 6 December 1929, with the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris conducted by Ernest Ansermet (who had founded the orchestra that winter season) and featuring the composer at the piano (White 1979, 94, 359). The next year, Stravinsky made a commercial recording of the work as soloist, with the Straram Orchestra, conducted by Ernest Ansermet (Hamilton 1971, 172). Beginning in the mind-1930s, Stravinsky's son Soulima often performed as soloist, most often with his father conducting (Johnston 1971, 15).
In 1949 Stravinsky corrected a number of misprints and omissions in the score, and this version was published in 1952. Unfortunately, a few new mistakes were added in this new edition, the most important of which was a change of the tempo marking at rehearsal number 14 from the original dotted-quaver = 88 to 80, which contradicts the specification that the semiquavers remain the same (White 1979, 359).
The three movements are played attacca (without interruption) and take just under twenty minutes to perform.
- Andante rapsodico
- Allegro capriccioso ma tempo giusto
The Capriccio is scored for solo piano, pairs of woodwinds (flutes doubling piccolo, oboes, clarinets doubling piccolo clarinet, and bassoons), cor anglais, four horns, three trombones, tuba, strings and timpani.
In addition to the solo piano, there is a concertino group of soloists consisting of the first violinist, first violist, first cellist and first bassist.
The score was first used as ballet music when Léonide Massine choreographed it in 1947 for the Teatro alla Scala, Milan. The décor for this production was by Nicola Benois. A second production was created in 1957 with choreography, décor, and costumes by Alan Carter (White 1979, 359). The original 1929 version of the Capriccio was used by George Balanchine as the score for the "Rubies" section of his full-length 1967 ballet Jewels (Anon. 1998–2011).
- Anon. 1998–2011. "Jewels". New York City Ballet website (accessed 9 October 2011).
- Fortner, Wolfgang. 1971. [Untitled]. Perspectives of New Music 9, no. 2 (Spring-Summer)/10, no. 1 (Fall-Winter): 29–31.
- Hamilton, David. 1971. “Igor Stravinsky: A Discography of the Composer’s Performances”. Perspectives of New Music 9, no. 2 (Spring-Summer)/10, no. 1 (Fall-Winter): 163–79.
- Johnston, Ben. 1971. "An Interview with Soulima Stravinsky". Perspectives of New Music 9, no. 2 (Spring-Summer)/10, no. 1 (Fall-Winter): 15-27.
- White, Eric Walter. 1979. Stravinsky: The Composer and His Works, second edition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03985-8.