"Until the end, my dear" for solo pianist (2012)
In the year leading up to the infamous première of Le Sacre du Printemps at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on May 29, 1913, Stravinsky was busy revising the score and working with the dancers of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, choreographer Nijinsky and conductor Pierre Monteux. Below are a few accounts of Stravinsky’s attempts to express the scope of his grand orchestral vision via the piano during that time. “Until the end, my dear.” is a reenactment, of sorts, of the energy put forth in those preliminary sessions with his collaborators.
Stravinsky, in his own words (1965 interview)—
When I composed the first part of the Sacre, Diaghilev invited me to Venice. And when I played this beginning of the Sacre to Diaghilev, he was a little bit surprised...He asked me only one thing, which was very offending, he asked me, “Will it last very long this way?” And I said, “Until the end, my dear.” And, he was silent because he understood that the answer was serious.
Ballets Russes corps de ballet member, Dame Marie Rambert—
Hearing the way his music was being played, [Stravinsky] blazed up, pushed aside the fat German pianist, nicknamed "Kolossal" by Diaghilev, and proceeded to play twice as fast as we had been doing and twice as fast as we could possible dance. He stamped his feet on the floor and banged his fist on the piano and sang and shouted.
Pierre Monteux, conductor of the première—
With only Diaghilev and myself as audience, Stravinsky sat down to play a piano reduction of the entire score. Before he got very far I was convinced he was raving mad. Heard this way, without the color of the orchestra which is one of its greatest attractions, the crudity of the rhythm was emphasized, its stark primitiveness underlined. The very walls resounded as Stravinsky pounded away, occasionally stamping his feet and jumping up and down to accentuate the force of the music.
On 2nd June 1912, influential French critic Louis Laloy invited Debussy and Stravinsky to his home—
Debussy agreed to play the bass. Stravinsky asked if he could take his collar off. His sight was not improved by his glasses, and pointing his nose to the keyboard and sometimes humming a part that had been omitted from the arrangement, he led into a welter of sound...Debussy followed without a hitch and seemed to make light of the difficulty. When they had finished there was no question of embracing, nor even of compliments. We were dumbfounded, overwhelmed by this hurricane which had come from the depths of the ages and which had taken life by the roots.