Rethinking Igor Stravinsky historically and theoretically — III




oeuvre of Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin, Stravinsky, Sadko, Dawn on the Moscow River, In the Steppes of Central Asia, Petrushka, The Rite of Spring, Three Tales for Children, Three Pieces for String Quartet, The Soldier’s Tale, The Wedding, The Fairy’s Kiss, Symphony of Psalms, polymorphism


The article is a continuation of the author’s reflections on the phenomenon of musical polymorphism (the beginning is in Vol. 124, 2019; the continuation is in Vol. 128, 2020). Stravinsky’s use of the environment, space, motion, dissonance, and Janus morphemes is considered as his inheritance from a tradition dating back to the work of his great predecessors. The musical tableau Sadko by RimskyKorsakov, the introduction Dawn on the Moscow River to Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, and Borodin’s symphonic poem In the Steppes of Central Asia are a clear confirmation of this. In Sadko Rimsky-Korsakov reveals himself as the founder of musical polymorphism. The multi-element polymorphism of Mussorgsky’s Dawn on the Moscow River forms the basis of the first tableau in Stravinsky’s Petrushka. In the Steppes of Central Asia is an example of a multi-elemental, polymorphic structure, recreated outside an existing object: a native caravan crossing the desert, guarded by a Russian military detachment. Its stereophonic nature appears in the displacement of the textural elements to the rear and the foreground, their spatial compression or expansion, changes to the acoustic volume, sound coloration. Introductory violins octave unison in In the Steppes of Central Asia displays its hidden timbre-polyphonic nature. In the historical perspective, this compositional discovery by Borodin foreshadows a similar approach in Stravinsky’s musical language. The timbrical layering of the unison can be traced in Dances of the Young Girls from The Rite of Spring, The Lullaby in the Storm from The Fairy’s Kiss. The rhythmic ostinato features of Rimsky-Korsakov’s and Borodin’s scores are developed by Stravinsky to the elaborated part of his musical language. The structures with more or less constant, exact repetitions are used in The Rite of Spring, Three Tales for Children, Three Pieces for String Quartet, The Soldier’s Tale, The Wedding, Symphony of Psalms.

Author Biography

Valery Glivinsky

Senior Doctor of Musicology


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