Exhilarating percussion duo Maraca2 meets the musical fireworks of Igor Stravinsky. An explosive display of virtuosity!
Avner Dorman – Spices, Perfumes, Toxins with Maraca2, percussion
Igor Stravinsky – Firebird, 1945
We hope you enjoy our personal approach to program notes: insights from Jason into how and why pieces were selected, followed by notes and quotes from composers and artists about their work.
Introduction from Jason: This evening we are delighted to present one of the world’s most dynamic percussion ensembles, Maraca2. Their astonishing technique and flair will be on full display tonight in Israeli composer Avner Dorman’s intoxicating concerto for percussion duo, the genesis and style of which he describes below.
We pair the contemporary dynamism of Maraca2 and Dorman with the early-20th century dynamism of Igor Stravinsky, who had a massive break-out success in 1910 with the Paris premiere of his ballet Firebird. Read on for Stravinsky’s detailed account of the ballet’s commission as well as its subsequent composition and debut with the legendary Ballets Russes.
Avner Dorman on Spices Perfumes, Toxins!: The title Spices, Perfumes, Toxins! refers to three substances that are extremely appealing, yet filled with danger. Spices delight the palate, but can cause illness; perfumes seduce, but can also betray; toxins bring ecstasy, but are deadly. The concerto combines Middle-Eastern drums, orchestral percussion, and rock drums with orchestral forces - a unique sound both enticing and dangerous.
Spices, Perfumes, Toxins! is a result of years of collaboration with PercaDu. While we were still students at the Rubin Academy of Music in Tel-Aviv, Tomer and Adi asked me to write a piece for them. All three of us aimed at a piece that would be markedly Israeli and would reflect young Israeli culture. The process of composing this work, titled Udacrep Akubrad, involved working closely with PercaDu on my ideas and testing them on the instruments long before the piece was done. In hindsight, I believe that the most important choice in making the piece sound Israeli was the use of four Darbukas and Tom-Toms in addition to the Marimbas. (The piece’s name is ‘PercaDu Darbuka' spelled backwards.) Udacrep Akubrad went on to become one of PercaDu's signature pieces and my most performed composition and is the basis for the first movement of tonight’s concerto.
The first movement, Spices, draws its inspiration from the music of our region (extending its boundaries to the east as far as the Indian sub-continent). The piece is largely based on Middle-Eastern and Indian scales and utilizes the Indian system of Talas for rhythmic organization. I use these elements within a large-scale dramatic form and employ repetitive minimalism as it appears in the music traditions of the East and in the works of Westem minimalists of the past forty years. Approximately at the movement's golden section there is a cadenza that precurses the last movement of the concerto.
In Perfumes the sonic world changes as one of the percussionists leaves the marimba and plays on a vibraphone. Here I use what I call multicultural polyphony. The opening theme of the movement (in the marimba) is reminiscent of Baroque arias. The three flutes that accompany the melody (regular, alto, and bass) echo the ornamental nature of the melody and transform it into lines characteristic of Middle-Eastern folk music. At the same time, the bass line borrows its sound from the world of jazz. Each part of the texture contributes the ‘soul’ of its genre, so to speak, in an effort to create a humanistic whole that express the diversity of our time and culture. As the movement progresses the soloists and orchestra embark on a colorful journey from the seductive to the dangerous.
In “Toxins!" the soloists use the entire variety of percussion instruments at their disposal. The movement is based on alternation between an aggressive rhythmic pattern (played on drumsets) and passionate outbursts in the orchestra. It swings like a pendulum between extreme joyous ecstasy and obsessive anxiety, pain, and delusions. As the movement develops, the music becomes increasingly fanatical until the final outburst of catharsis and death.
Igor Stravinsky on the composition and premiere of Firebird: Diaghileff, who had just reached St. Petersburg, asked me to write the music for Firebird for the Ballets Russes season at the Paris Opera in the spring of 1910. Although alarmed by the fact that this was a commission for a fixed date, and afraid lest I should fail to complete the work in time - I was still unaware of my own capabilities - I accepted the order. It was highly flattering to be chosen from among the musicians of my generation, and to be allowed to collaborate in so important an enterprise side by side with personages who were generally recognized as masters in their own spheres.
At the moment when I received Diaghileff’s commission, the ballet had just undergone a great transformation owing to the advent of a young ballet master, Fokine, and the flowering of a whole bouquet of artists full of talent and originality: Pavlova, Karsavina, Nijinsky. Notwithstanding all my admiration for the classical ballet and its great master, Marius Petipa, I could not resist the intoxication produced by such ballets as Les Danses du Prince Igor or Carnaval, the only two of Fokine's productions that I had so far seen. All this greatly tempted me, and impelled me to break through the pale and eagerly seize this opportunity of making close contact with that group of advanced and active artists of which Diaghileff was the soul, and which had long attracted me.
Throughout the winter I worked strenuously at my ballet, and that brought me into constant touch with Diaghileff and his collaborators. Fokine created the choreography of Firebird section by section, as the music was handed to him.
Diaghileff, with his company and collaborators, preceded me, so that when I joined them rehearsals were in full swing. Fokine elaborated the scenario, having worked at his choreography with burning devotion, the more so because he had fallen in love with the Russian fairy story. The casting was not what I had intended. Pavlova, with her slim angular figure, had seemed to me infinitely better suited to the role of the fairy bird than Karsavina, with her gentle feminine charm, for whom I had intended the part of the captive princess. Though circumstances had decided otherwise than I had planned, I had no cause for complaint, since Karsavina's rendering of the bird's part was perfect, and that beautiful and gracious artist had a brilliant success in it.
I attended every rehearsal with the company, and after rehearsals Diaghileff, Nijinsky (who was, however, not dancing in the ballet), and myself generally ended the day with a fine dinner, washed down with good claret.
The performance was warmly applauded by the Paris public. I am, of course, far from attributing this success solely to the score; it was equally due to the spectacle on the stage in the painter Golovin's magnificent setting, the brilliant interpretation by Diaghileff’s artists, and the talent of the choreographer. I must admit, however, that the choreography of this ballet always seemed to me to be complicated and overburdened with plastic detail, so that the artists felt, and still feel even now, great difficulty in coordinating their steps and gestures with the music, and this often led to an unpleasant discordance between the movements of the dance and the imperative demands that the measure of the music imposed.