Conductor's Notes

Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movements

Stravinsky's Symphony In Three Movements was commissioned in 1945 by the New York Philharmonic in part to celebrate the impending end of World War II. It was premiered by Stravinsky himself in January 1946. I find it exhilarating to conduct Stravinsky. The taut energy, the character changes in the music, the images of war, and the rhythmic machine that he creates in the music are all extremely exciting.

It's fascinating to hear recordings of Stravinsky's music being conducted by himself. These are rare opportunities for conductors of this time to know what Stravinsky's intentions for the music were. Stravinsky rarely offered any sort of program to describe his music, and yet here seemed to vacillate on this issue. After describing a program to the finale to Robert Craft years after the premiere, and describing how cinematographic images of goose-stepping German soldiers influenced Mvt. 3 of the Symphony and how a documentary on Japanese scorched-earth tactics impacted his Mvt. 1, Stravinsky still said "In spite of what I have admitted, the Symphony is not programmatic. Composers combine notes. That is all."

This Symphony has a dark intensity that is unrelenting, while at the same time showing us the neo-classical directions and rhythmic drive that are quintessential Stravinsky. This performance with the Victoria Symphony was rhythmically and dramatically intense and a real thrill to conduct. I hope you enjoy.