Divertimento from "The Fairy's Kiss"
Stravinsky's ballet The Fairy's Kiss, based on The Snow Maiden by Hans Christian Andersen, was written in 1928 and first produced in Paris the same year, but with little success then or subsequently. Excerpts from the score, however, were not long in making their way to the concert hall, Ernest Ansermet introducing an orchestral suite authorized by the composer in 1931.
The year following, Stravinsky (1882-1971) and his violinist friend Samuel Dushkin made a transcription of nearly half the score for violin and piano. That chamber score then became the basis for the orchestral Divertimento, which came in 1934 (rev. 1950). Curiously not as widely known as many other Stravinsky scores, The Fairy's Kiss is eminently listenable music, the familiar and not-so-familiar Tchaikovsky songs and piano pieces transformed with all the considerable affection, wit, and imagination available to the most urbane of the last century's composers.
The following excerpt from Stravinsky's book Expositions and Developments sheds interesting light on the genesis of the ballet: "Le baiser de la fée probably began as far back as 1895, during my first visit to Switzerland, though I remember I was most fascinated then by the English who came to look at the Jungfrau through telescopes. In 1928 Ida Rubinstein commissioned me to compose a full-length ballet. The 35th anniversary of Tchaikovsky's death was 1928 - and the actual day was observed in Paris' Russian churches - and I therefore conceived my compatriotic homage as an anniversary piece. I chose Andersen's The Snow Maiden because it suggested an allegory of Tchaikovsky himself. The fairy's kiss on the heel of the child is also the muse marking Tchaikovsky at his birth - though the muse did not claim him at his wedding, as she did the young man in the ballet, but at the height of his powers. My only precept in selecting the music was that none of the pieces should have been orchestrated by Tchaikovsky - i.e., my selection would have to come from piano music and songs. I was already familiar with about half of the music I was to use; the other pieces were discoveries."
-- Orrin Howard annotated Los Angeles Philharmonic programs for more than 20 years while serving as Director of Publications and Archives, and continues to contribute regularly to the program book.