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Works for Piano & Wind Instruments

by Igor Stravinsky / Mika Pohjola

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about

Igor Stravinsky: Symphonies of Wind Instruments (Symphonies d'instruments �à vent)

The Symphonies of Wind Instruments is a concert work written by Igor Stravinsky in 1920, for an ensemble of woodwind and brass instruments. The piece is in one movement, lasting about 9 minutes. It is dedicated to the memory of Claude Debussy, who died in 1918, and was premiered in London on June 10, 1921, conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. A piano reduction by Arthur Louri� was published in 1926 (White 1979, 292), a full score appearing only after Stravinsky re-orchestrated the work in 1947.

The Symphonies was originally scored for an ensemble of 24 wind instruments: 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), alto flute, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, alto clarinet in F, 3 bassoons (3rd doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, and tuba. The 1947 revision requires 23 players: 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons (3rd doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, and tuba.

In the title of this piece, Stravinsky used the word "symphonies" (note the plural form) not to label the work as an essay in the symphonic form, but rather in the word's older, broader connotation, from the Greek, of "sounding together". The music of the Symphonies draws on Russian folk elements, and is constructed of "contrasting episodes at three different yet related tempos".

The chorale which concludes the piece was originally published in the magazine La Revue musicale in an edition entitled Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy, which included short pieces from several composers, including Maurice Ravel and Manuel de Falla, dedicated to Debussy's memory. It appeared as a piano score in the Tombeau.

The premiere at Queen's Hall, London, was greeted initially by laughter and derision from an audience unaccustomed to Stravinsky's experimental work. According to Arthur Rubinstein, who attended the performance with Stravinsky, laughter broke out during the bassoon segment, and the conductor, Koussevitzky, "instead of stopping the performance and addressing the audience with a few words, assuring them that it was a serious work in the modern idiom, smiled maliciously and even had a twinkle in his eye as he looked over his shoulder at the laughing audience". A reviewer for the Times reported, however, that the hisses "were no sign of ill-will towards the composer", and subsided when Stravinsky stood up at the end of the performance to bow.

Even for Stravinsky, the Symphonies of Wind Instruments is strikingly original, grounded not in the "symphonic" genre but - as the musicologist Richard Taruskin has shown - in the Russian Orthodox service for the dead. It began as a serene and archaic chorale composed in memory of Debussy. Stravinsky then expanded this "Fragment" with music more popular in flavor. The chorale, at the close, became an apotheosis sublimating an eclectic wealth of material. The ensemble eschews strings in favor of colorful, chanting winds. According to Stravinsky, in 1936: "I did not, and indeed I could not, count on any immediate success for this work. It lacks all those elements that infallibly appeal to the ordinary listener, or to which he is accustomed. ... It is an austere ritual which is unfolded in terms of short litanies ... This music is not meant to 'please' an audience, nor to arouse its passions." More than half a century later, the religious elan of the Symphonies of Wind Instruments seems both pleasing and arousing.
-Boosey & Hawkes/Joseph Horowitz.


Mika Pohjola: Three Limited Pieces

Three Limited Pieces is a three-movement piece for piano, with contrasting moods and composing techniques. The first movement, Correo Electrónico (which means "email"), is inspired of communication with next to no nuance or emotional expression, typical for completely missing in email correspondence. The second movement, Three Clowns, is a three-part "description" of lamenting clowns, whose job it is to be funny and entertaining, but in fact feel the opposite in private. The third movement, Running, has a stressful and unbalanced character, where the harmony is at times consonant, at times missing. Running expresses approximately: "There is no time to concentrate on details in this busy life. All that is important is to get away from the stress which only accumulates."


Mika Pohjola: Wedding March

Originally written for the odd instrumentation of recorder, cello and trombone, this is an expanded version for wind orchestra with percussion, harp and celesta. A wedding brings lots of expectations, and not every time everything during the procession is perfect.


Mika Pohjola: Allemande & Humoresque

Allemande & Humoresque is a two-movement piece for flute, clarinet and piano (originally flute, violin and piano). The Allemande is a baroque-like movement with a typical AABB form, where the piano harmonies are derived mostly from the missing chromatic notes of the key, in other words all the "wrong" notes. The Humoresque is a less solemn movement in an Argentinean 6/8 Chacarera rhythm.


Igor Stravinsky: Serenade in A (Serenade en La)

Serenade in A is a work for solo piano by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Completed on September 9, 1925, in Vienna and published by Boosey & Hawkes, it resulted from his signing his first gramophone recording contract, for Brunswick, and was written so that each movement could fit on one side of a 78 rpm record. The dedicatee was Stravinsky's wife Katya.

Despite its title, the work is in neither A major nor A minor. According to Eric White, A is not the "key" of the work, but rather the music radiates from and tends towards A as a "tonic pole". Thus, the first and the last chord of each movement contains the note A, either as the root, third, or fifth of a triad. According to Stravinsky, the piece was conceived "in imitation of the Nachtmusik of the eighteenth century, which was usually commissioned by patron princes for various festive occasions, and included, as did the suites, an indeterminate number of pieces". Therefore, the movement titles are meant to evoke the specific parts of such festive celebration.

From the pianist's perspective "Hymne" is related to Frédéric Chopin's Ballade No. 2, while the "Cadenza finala" reflects Stravinsky's Russian heritage.

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released March 15, 2021

Mika Pohjola - Recording

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Blue Music Group Stockholm, Sweden

The Small Label with Big Music.

Blue Music Group is the vision of composition, performance and production of Mika Pohjola. Having recorded his debut album for composer legend Gunther Schuller’s GM Recordings, Pohjola became a Steinway piano artist in 1997, and records a variety of music which is characterized by a particularly high quality.

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