Stravinsky - The Fairy's Kiss: Divertimento

By Jeff Counts

Instrumentation: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 3 clarinets (3rd doubles bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, harp, strings

Duration: 22 minutes in four movements.


THE COMPOSER – IGOR STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) – Stravinsky spent the entire span of years between the world wars in Paris. His return there in 1920 after Swiss exile was a convenient choice and one he nearly didn’t make. With St. Petersburg no longer an option, Stravinsky considered living in Rome but instead re-settled in the City of Light. He found his old stomping grounds full of artistic life again and he was welcomed back with enthusiasm.

THE MUSIC – Stravinsky’s own written words tell of the genesis of The Fairy’s Kiss. “In 1928 Ida Rubenstein commissioned me to compose a full-length ballet. The thirty-fifth anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s death was 1928 – the actual day was observed in Paris’ Russian churches – and I therefore conceived my compatriotic homage as an anniversary piece. I chose [Hans Christian] Anderson’s The Snow Maiden because it suggested an allegory of Tchaikovsky himself.” The highly agreeable music of Stravinsky’s “homage” was a blend of themes from several of Tchaikovsky’s songs and piano works and Stravinsky’s own respectful melodic creations in the style of Tchaikovsky. The result was magical, if not terribly popular. Again, Stravinsky himself wrote best about the scenario of his ballet. “A fairy imprints her magic kiss on a child at birth and parts it from its mother. Twenty years later, when the youth has attained the very zenith of his good fortune, she repeats the fatal kiss and carries him off to live in supreme happiness with her ever afterward.” The project, though gratifying for Stravinsky, hastened the end of his long professional friendship with Serge Diaghilev. Diaghilev was incensed that Stravinsky would accept work from a competing ballet company and never forgave him. It was common practice for Stravinsky to draw suites from his ballet scores and The Fairy’s Kiss was no exception. The first Divertimento came in 1934 with an important revision following in 1949.

THE WORLD – Mexican President Alvaro Obregon was assassinated in 1928. Also that year, the Albanian Republic became a Kingdom, the German dirigible Graf Zeppelin made its first intercontinental flight and D.H. Lawrence published Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

THE CONNECTIONThe Fairy’s Kiss has only been programmed three times by the Utah Symphony on a Masterworks concert, most recently in 2005 under Scott O’Neil.