The ‘phenomenal success’ of the Ballets Russes‘ 1909 season was purely artistic; in financial terms it was a disaster, leaving Diaghilev and his backers with a gargantuan debt of 85,000 francs (some things never change!). Lesser men would have simply given up at this point, but the indomitable impresario immediately began pressing ahead with plans for a second season: a ballet on the music of Schumann (Carnaval), something rather risqué using Rimsky-Korsakov’s Schéhérazade, Giselle (as a sop to the French side of things), Les Orientales (music by Sinding and Grieg) and, finally, a new ballet score based on Russian myth — The Firebird. The question was, who was to write the music for this new work? Tcherepnin?? Lyadov??? In the end Diaghilev risked all on giving the commission to a young, relatively unknown composer, Igor Stravinsky.
In Daphnis this week Ravel contrasts the mystic calm of the Danse Religeuse with a fast and lively (Vif) dance sequence for the corps de ballet in the rather interesting (certainly for the dancers!) time of 7/4.
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