by Anne Schuster Hunter
Yes. It’s unusual for Tempesta di Mare to perform Igor Stravinsky’s Apollon musagète. Apollo is a little later than their standard repertoire—about two and a half centuries later.
But Artistic Co-Director Richard Stone has wanted to Tempesta to play Apollo ever since he and Gwyn Roberts founded the group over a decade ago.
He’s always loved the piece, he says. But after years of immersion in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music, he noticed that Apollo was changing for him.
“I was hearing Apollo with a slightly different approach to tempo, a very different approach to articulation. Without being aware of it, I was reinterpreting it through the ears of historical performance.” And it sounded great.
By 1928 and Apollo, Stravinsky wrote that he was reconsidering “… the original purpose of strings… was first and foremost the cultivation of canto, of melody.”
Stravinsky may not be spinning in his grave at the thought. True, his Rite of Spring, 1913, was so aggressively cacophonic for its time that it’s an archetype of in-your-face modernism. But Apollo came much later, during a period of reevaluation. And baroque music was, in fact, on Stravinsky’s mind.
In the ‘20’s, Stravinsky was dissatisfied with string writing in current music. By 1928 and Apollo, he wrote that he was reconsidering “…the original purpose of strings…first and foremost the cultivation of canto, of melody.” He’d already incorporated music by Pergolesi and other 18th-century composers into his ballet Pulcinella, 1920.
Apollo doesn’t contain samples of baroque music like Pulcinella. “But he’s constantly referencing baroque expression, particularly French baroque gesture, melodic contour and rhythms…” says Stone.
And he adds, “…even though it’s that messed up, prismatic, cubist thing that he wrote in, which I’m actually unreasonably fond of.”
In March, follow Tempesta’s hunch and try something new. Give baroque Apollon musagète a try. It might be just the thing.