Les Noces (1919)

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky(version ensemble de 1919, tableaux 1, 2, 3, 4)

vocal quartet, 6 percussions, 2 cimbaloms, MIDI piano, digital harmonium and mixed chorus

Premiere: March 9, 2005, Montréal / Nouvelles Musiques 2005: Le matin des magiciens, Salle Pierre-Mercure — Centre Pierre-Péladeau, Montréal (Québec)

Tableaux 1 & 2: orchestration by Stravinsky
Tableaux 3 & 4: orchestration by René Bosc

For some time now, this masterpiece for chorus and instrumental ensemble has been admired for its spectacular use of an unprecedented orchestral arrangement. In Stravinsky’s time, the four pianists and six percussionists who serve as an instrumental backdrop for the vocal soloists and chorus represented the last word in radically new instrumentation. Even today, the list of works influenced by this blend of keyboards and percussions keeps growing, and the Russian composer will undoubtedly leave this mark on music for a long time to come. However, the full story is even more incredible than the one we are familiar with. In fact, this innovative nomenclature could have been even more revolutionary. Its creator originally wanted to have his work played by a much stranger arrangement of mechanical, synchronized instruments (!), thereby anticipating the hybrid instrumental-computer works that we have come to know only half a century later In advance of the broken time. (René Bosc)

“I began working on a score comprised of whole polyphonic groups: a player piano and harmonium moved by electricity, and an ensemble of percussions and Hungarian cimbaloms. But then I encountered a new obstacle: the conductor had great difficulty synchronizing the parts played by the musicians and singers and those played by the mechanical instruments. As a matter of fact, I gave up on the idea because of this obstacle, even though I had already orchestrated the first two tableaux in this way, an effort that had sapped my strength and demanded a great deal of patience, all of which was for nothing.” (Igor Stravinsky, Chronicle of my Life)

“Les Noces was conceived with the idea of being mechanically recorded; the work was only entrusted to four pianos because of technical difficulties.” (C.F. Ramuz, Souvenirs sur Igor Stravinsky)

Today, thanks to the advent of digital technology, Stravinsky’s vision of Les Noces may finally be realized. Not only is it possible to hear the first and second tableaux as Stravinsky imagined and orchestrated them (at a time when their execution as such was utterly impossible), the third and fourth tableaux may also be delivered in accordance with the composer’s visionary intentions—here in an orchestration by René Bosc. What we have here tonight, is a first hearing of an unpublished version of Les Noces, rendered through the performances of a vocal quartet, choir, two cymablums, pianola, digital harmonium, and six percussionists.