Статья 'Каприччио для фортепиано с оркестром И. Стравинского (между барочными и современными стилевыми моделями) ' - журнал 'PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal' - NotaBene.ru
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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

Capriccio for piano and orchestra by I. Stravinsky (between baroque and modern style models)

Khan' Syao

Graduate Student, Department of the General Course and Methods of Teaching Piano, Russian State Pedagogical University. A. I. Herzen

191186, Russia, Saint Petersburg, nab. Moika River, 48

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The object of the study is the work of I. F. Stravinsky of the neoclassical period. The subject of the study is Capriccio for piano and Orchestra, which is a vivid example of the manifestation of the composer's neoclassical approaches. The purpose of the work is to identify the principles of the correlation of "old" and "new" stylistic models in this essay. The research involved theoretical and empirical research methods, including analysis, generalization and systematization of scientific sources, stylistic analysis of I. Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. As a result of a detailed examination of the first part of the composition, some features of the figurative structure, form formation, intonation, harmonic language, texture are revealed. When considering Stravinsky's work, the main attention is paid to the composer's practical mastering of musical dialects of the past and present. In particular, a detailed analysis of the first part of the Capriccio makes it possible to detect manifestations of musical experience of both past eras – Baroque, classicism, Romanticism, and modernity (first of all, at the level of pitch and metrorhythmic features of the work). It is concluded that, taking as a basis the compositional idea of a baroque concerto, assimilating stylistic models of various epochs within one composition, Stravinsky creates an independent, modern composition, which is one of the variants of the composer's "neoclassical" reading of the concert genre.


Stravinsky, Capriccio for piano, neoclassicism, concerto, concerto grosso, baroque concerto, concert genre, style models, jazz, capriccio

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.


Capriccio for piano and orchestra is a composition written by I. Stravinsky in 1929, at a time when the composer turned his eyes to the music of the former, primarily pre–Romantic eras. Researchers define this period of Stravinsky's work as neoclassical, noting the differences in the refraction of this artistic phenomenon in the composer's legacy compared to similar creative experiences of contemporaries ? Ravel, Hindemith, Casella, Millau, Bartok, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, etc. [1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12-16]. According to the exact definition of K.V. Zenkin, Stravinsky "never used someone else's style as such, "artlessly" and "naturally": his own face is recognized under any masks" [6, p. 40]. In each of his neoclassical opus, the composer, relying on the model of past eras, creates an independent, original composition.

In The Chronicle of My Life, Stravinsky writes that he composed Capriccio for most of the summer of 1929 and finished it by the end of September [11, p. 228]. For the first time the composition was performed by the author in Paris, in the Hall of Pleyel, at a concert of the Paris Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ernest Ansermet [7, p. 62]. The composer explains the reason that prompted him to create this composition as follows: "In recent years, I have been invited to play my Concerto so often (the number of my performances has reached a significant figure – forty) that I decided it was time to introduce the audience to a new composition for piano and orchestra. This prompted me to write a new concerto, to which I gave the name “Capriccio” as more appropriate to the nature of his music" [11, p. 228].

The genre of the concert, or to be more precise, the sphere of concertina, which is the essence of the composer's neoclassical manner, occupies a special place in almost all of Stravinsky's work. This is indicated by many researchers of his legacy – B. V. Asafyev [1], N. A. Braginskaya [2, 3], V. P. Varunts [4], M. S. Druskin [5], S. I. Savenko [7], B. M. Yarustovsky [3] et al.  At the same time, we mean not just a virtuoso, competitive beginning (although this parameter is also present). B. Asafyev, for example, writes that the understanding of concertina lies "in the perfection of dialogue, in its expression ? in the fact that two (or several) concert instruments, proceeding from some general premises, reveal two principles, two currents in them and develop their points of view dialectically, in the consciousness of the constant coexistence of the idea the dominant and contrasting idea generated by it" [1, p. 306].

The features of the concert genre are found by researchers in works of different genre inclinations, for example, in the ballets "Petrushka", "Orpheus", "Agon", in "Symphony in Three movements", in "The Tale of a Soldier" [7, p. 154]. The idea of concerting, which arose in the early period of Stravinsky's work, in ballets, is fully realized in a series of neoclassical opuses. Among them are a Concert for Piano and wind instruments (1924), a Concert in D for violin and orchestra (1931), a Concert Duet (D uo C oncertatnt) for violin and piano, a Concert for two pianos solo (1932), a Concert for chamber Orchestra in Es "Dumbarton Oaks" (1937), Black Concerto (E bony Concerto) for clarinet and jazz orchestra (1945), Concerto for String Orchestra in D ("Basel") (1946).

Capriccio for piano and orchestra, which can be called one of the most virtuosic works of the concert genre, is of interest to us, first of all, as an example of Stravinsky's neoclassical opus. Despite the considerable number of scientific works devoted to the composer's work, this work has not become the object of detailed musicological consideration. Meanwhile, a detailed musical and stylistic analysis of the work with the identification of the features of musical language, form formation, drama is a necessary research "operation" to determine the features of the composer's implementation of the neoclassical "method" in this composition. And the accumulation of such research results on the example of various musical canvases will contribute to demonstrating the diversity and richness of the composer's refraction of musical dialects of the past and present. This is the relevance and scientific novelty of the presented work.

The purpose of this article is to identify the features of the implementation of the neoclassical composer's "method" by I. Stravinsky in the first part of Capriccio for piano and orchestra. The research involved theoretical and empirical research methods, including analysis, generalization and systematization of scientific sources, analysis of empirical material of the first part of a musical composition.

Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra is Stravinsky's second composition in the concert genre, written five years after the Piano and Wind Concerto. Unlike the previous opus, a significant place in the Capriccio is occupied by concertation, which involves not only solo piano, but also various ensembles of orchestral instruments. One of such groups is highlighted in the score ? the concertino string quartet (strings are divided into concertino and ripieni groups according to the concerto grosso type). M. Druskin, noting the increased role of strings in Stravinsky's orchestra of this period, emphasizes that in Capriccio, "along with the pianist, violinists, violists, cellists and even double bassists solo" [5, p. 157]. Thus, the baroque type of ensemble and interpretation of solo instruments is clearly expressed in the composition of the performers of the composition.  

Capriccio includes three parts performed by attacca:

Part I ? Presto (? = 132), Doppio movimento (? = 66)

Part II ? Andante rapsodico (= 108)

Part III ? Allegro cappriccioso ma tempo giusto (? = 96)

The first part is lively, characterized by a combination of baroque concertation and ragtime rhythms. The second part is slow, built on the alternation of quieter and more lively episodes. The third part is of the toccate type. In our opinion, the principles of combining the "old" and "new" manifest themselves most vividly in the first part of the Capriccio. That is why this article focuses on this part of the work. 

In the first part, nine different episodes can be distinguished. They are framed by an introduction and conclusion, built on the same thematic material, but sounding from different foundations.

The introduction includes two contrasting elements. The first one combines rapid passages from ripieno strings on forte and a treble–like pedal in the piano part, which is duplicated by a solo string group - concertino. The trill sounds like a drum roll with a sharp, accented withdrawal at the end, the initial and final sounds are "amplified" by the timbres of brass. The second element is assigned to a group of solo strings: the transparent texture, piano dynamics, the dolce mark, the descending direction of the melodic movement, the melodious, somewhat aching timbre of the strings ? all this is designed to create a completely different image – tender, compassionate. At the second holding, the same material is entrusted to the wood-oven. Thus, already in the introduction, the entire cast of performers is shown, exposed in the context of the textural opposition of soli-tutti.

The first episode (A) is based on the repeated reproduction of the thematic "core" of this section, entrusted to the piano – tense, sprawling figures in sixteenth notes, organized according to the principle of irregular accentuation. In alternation with the rhythmic-intonation structures of other instruments (zigzag clarinet solo, descending passages with moves to an enlarged quart for the flute, descending sextonic intonation, turning into movement with parallel fifths for woodwinds), the composer compares various timbres, registers and methods of sound production.

The number 7 begins the move to the second episode (B, number 8), which is biased to the previous one thematically, texturally and tonally. It is based on the counterpoint of two themes: cheerful, dancing in the piano part and graceful, graceful in the flute. The whole development of this fragment is based on the variation of the initial motif of the piano part, which is modified rhythmically, timbre, articulation (non legato, legato). Its various versions, passing from one voice to another, polyphonically overlapping each other, fill the entire sound space. The traditions of baroque polyphony are seen in this, but referring to this stylistic model, Stravinsky in his composition achieves a special type of sound characterized by fluctuations in harmonic tension, some spherical volume of phonism.

The change of key (G-dur) heralds the beginning of the next section (C), in which the composer also addresses the technique of contrapuntal superimposition of two lines assigned to the piano and flute. The dominance of these two timbres in the episode under consideration gives its sound lightness, airiness; the interweaving of themes with dissonant "knots" creates a unique openwork textured pattern.

The fourth episode (D) is a roll call of oboe, clarinet, piccolo flute against the background of iridescent piano passages. The composer actively uses polyrhythmic techniques that create a feeling of emotional instability on the one hand, and improvisational freedom on the other.

The fifth episode begins with the number 16 (From 1), which is thematically related to section C, now sounding in an abbreviated form and in a different key (F-dur).

In the sixth episode (E, number 17), the elements of jazz are most clearly revealed, manifested in the intonation system, in the harmonization of the seventh chords, in the syncopated rhythm.

In figure 19, the tempo changes (Poco piu mosso), the timbres of clarinet, French horn, bassoon and piano enter the "main stage". The ratio of their voices reveals intrusive and disappearing duplications, functional instability of voices, due to which the effects of heterophonic counterpoint arise. It is precisely such episodes in the composer's music that have received the definition of "heterophonic concertation", originating from ballets, primarily from the "Sacred Spring" [7, p. 139].

The free deployment of music, built on the interweaving of phrases of these participants, leads to the return of the material of the first section (A 1, number 21). The emotional background of the main theme changes somewhat – it sounds more assertive, boldly. Piano rehearsals performed by percussion, ascending motifs on staccato from solo French horns give the sound a decisive, offensive character. Starting from the number 24, the voltage increases, first of all, it is created by metrorhythmic "distortions" resulting from the variability of the meter (the size changes almost in every beat ? 5/16, 2/8, 2/4, etc.).

The life-affirming, march-like theme of the bassoon (G, number 27), sounding against the background of rehearsal shifts in the upper register in the piano part, becomes an unexpected discharge of the heated state. This section can be called the code of the first part. This is indicated by the final type of thematism, the tonality of the construction (Es-dur is a subdominant sphere for the main tonality of g-moll, which is characteristic of the code).

The number 30 returns the material of the introduction, framing the composition of the first part of the Capriccio. Now it sounds from the abutment of d, in rhythmic magnification, against the background of the organ point. The first part ends with a gradual fading of sonority and a rarefaction of texture.

A step-by-step examination of the unfolding of the musical thought of the first part of Capriccio allowed us to trace the process of forming a general structure, which can be schematically depicted as follows:













Clock cycles
























Tonal plan












The structure of the first part can be defined as a free improvisational-fantasy character with elements of a contrasting composite form. There is a pronounced thematic, tonal, tempo contrast between all sections. The latter is found to a lesser extent, in general, the metronomic tempo ? = 66 is maintained throughout the first part. There are only two bright contrasts: the first is in the introduction (Presto ? Doppio movimento), the second is in the sequence of sections E, F, A 1 (Doppio movimento – Poco piu mosso (? = 88) ? Doppio movimento). It is no coincidence that the composer designated his composition as "Capriccio"; he wrote: "This form gave me the opportunity to develop my music by alternating episodes of various nature, which, following each other, give the work that capriciousness from which the name itself comes" [11, p. 228]. The principle of alternating different sections, representing It is the basis of the formation of the first part of the Capriccio, can be considered not only as a sign of a particular genre, but also as a manifestation of a baroque stylistic model in which the play of contrasts is thought of as the main artistic method.

Special attention should be paid to the tonal plan, which can be expressed by the following functional-harmonic scheme:


























This table shows that in the general logic of the tonal plan of the first part of the Capriccio, one can see the functional formula TDST, characteristic of the Baroque form. At the same time, it is impossible not to say about Stravinsky's interpretation of tonality: with its genetic connection with the classical tonality with its functional differentiation, it has obvious features of the harmony of the XX century ? the expansion of the range of functional means, the assumption of dissonance as the main constructive element of the system, etc. The "shining through" of the baroque tonal "circle" through the general harmonic system, solved in a modern key, can be called one of the original creative finds of the neoclassical composer.

In Capriccio, one can also note the use of stylistic features of baroque polyphony, but due to their mixing with other stylistic models (heterophony, jazz, modality), they are not so clearly personified (if, for example, compared with a fugue from a Symphony of Psalms). 

In connection with Capriccio, of course, there are parallels with early Romantic models. The author, speaking about this composition, himself mentions the "king of music" K. M. Weber: "I have familiarized myself... with all of Weber's music, and as a result, I discovered that his piano sonatas may have spread their spell on me when I composed Capriccio; in any case, the specific rhythm in Capriccio can be elevated to Weber" [10, p. 257]. For clarity, let's compare fragments of piano parts from the Concertina for Piano and Orchestra (Op. 79) by Weber and Capriccio Stravinsky (examples 1, 2). The fragmentation of the rhythmic pattern and the forms of movement in these examples have obvious similarities.

Example 1. K.M. Weber. Kontserstyuk for piano and orchestra (47-50 tt.)


Example 2. I.F. Stravinsky. Capriccio for piano and orchestra,

1 part (99-102 tt.)

In the interpretation of the soloist's part (in this case, the piano) as the central element of the timbre system, one can also see the features of a brilliant romantic concert [see: 3, p. 30].

With all the stylistic parallels with the music of past eras, Capriccio is a composition of the XX century, the signs of which are heard in every bar of the score, vividly manifest themselves on all parameters of the musical fabric. One of the stylistic signs of modernity is the penetration of jazz elements into Capriccio's music. In the whimsical, "capricious" combination of the principles of baroque concertation and the elasticity of the jazz rhythm, the vivid character of the music of the first part of the composition is revealed. About the place of jazz in his music , the composer said the following: "Jazz – in a broad sense – after 1918 from time to time influenced my music and traces of blues and boogie-woogie can be found even in my most "serious" things" [10, p. 209]. Apart from the "Black Concert", Stravinsky did not create a single sample of specially jazz music, but at the same time he masterfully assimilated jazz timbre rhythms, applying them in an extremely transformed form in a variety of opuses, one of such examples is his Capriccio.

Articulation also plays a special role (textured harmony, timbre, dynamics, accentuation, strokes), which becomes an important feature that determines the stylistic individuality of Stravinsky's musical language. The composer demonstrates amazing ingenuity in rhythmic articulation work with various pitch elements, for example, such as unison, octaves (see the introduction of the first part).

The undertaken analytical consideration of the first movement of Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra allows us to demonstrate the practical implementation of the composer's neoclassical approach. Our chosen research approach, based on a thorough analysis of the empirical material of the first part of Capriccio, allowed us to demonstrate the variety of stylistic components, in combination of which an original "model" of Stravinsky's neoclassicism is born, embodied in a particular composition. He relies on an old compositional idea, in this case, a baroque concert, but builds his "modern musical building" on its basis [9]. The idea of concertina, in this case, manifests itself not only in the contrasting juxtaposition of the chamber sound of concertino and the entire composition and the significance of the virtuoso beginning. A special interpretation is given to such a quality of concert thinking as dialogue, which manifests itself at various levels. In the broadest sense, it is a dialogue of different historical epochs, the stylistic models of which are assimilated by the composer in one composition. In a narrower sense, it is the interaction of different timbres, texture blocks of different density and the principle of organization, different tonal–harmonic logical constructions, rhythm-intonation structures connected by the author into a single sound whole. The identification of a variety of different options for the implementation of the "retrospective method" demonstrates the wealth of creative solutions and the skill of one of the "classics of neoclassicism" – I. Stravinsky, whose work has become an important part of the history of Russian music of the XX century. 

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2. Braginskaya, N. A. (2023). Musical dialogues of Igor Stravinsky. St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg State Conservatory.
3. Braginskaya, N. A. (2005). Neoclassical concertos by Stravinsky. St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg state Conservatory.
4. Varunts, V. P. (1988). Musical neoclassicism: Historical essays. Moscow: Music.
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The subject of the research in the article examines the peculiarity of the implementation of the neoclassical composer's "method" of I. Stravinsky in the first part of Capriccio for Piano and orchestra (1928-1929), which is partly reflected in the title: "Capriccio for piano and orchestra by I. Stravinsky (between Baroque and modern style models)". The author gradually clarifies the inaccuracy of the title in the text of the article: the first paragraph of the introduction ends with some (primary) clarification of the object of research in general terms ("Within the framework of this article, we will consider the features of the implementation of the neoclassical composer's "method" Stravinsky on the example of his Capriccio for Piano and orchestra"), and after determining the place of Capriccio in the totality of the works of the composer of the concert genre ("Capriccio for piano and orchestra can be called one of the most virtuosic works of the concert genre") and the general features of the implementation of the composer's neoclassical "method", which distinguishes the work as a whole ("as part of the performers the Baroque type of the ensemble and the interpretation of solo instruments is pronounced"), the author proceeds to analyze the first part of the Capriccio in detail ("Presto (? = 132), Doppio movimento (? = 66)"). The logic of gradual disclosure of the object of research from the general to the particular is justified by introducing the reader to the subject area of work based on a review of thematically selected scientific literature and the basic conceptual and terminological apparatus. It is on the analysis of the empirical material of the first part of Capriccio — on the way (dynamics) of building the process of "forming a common structure" — that the author argues his final conclusion: "The undertaken analytical consideration of the first part of Capriccio for piano and orchestra by Stravinsky allows us to demonstrate the practical implementation of the composer's neoclassical approach. He relies on an ancient compositional idea, in this case, a Baroque concert, but on its basis he builds his "modern musical building"" [9]. The link to the well-known article by T.A. Starostina in 1992, which concludes the article, indicates the author's confirmation of a number of Tatyana Alekseevna's provisions based on a more detailed analysis of the first part of Capriccio. In general, according to the reviewer, the author coped with the task of confirming the theoretical judgments of T.A. Starostina, based on a broader generalization of the neoclassical techniques of I. Stravinsky, revealing the subject of research at a sufficient theoretical level. The author's research methodology has strengths and weaknesses. The strong point should be considered the use of a well-proven technique for analyzing the tonal—harmonic (or, as Stravinsky himself put it, "modal") process of "forming the general structure" of a musical work. This analysis allowed the author to present the most convincing argument, revealing the most important feature of the implementation of the neoclassical composer's "method" of I. Stravinsky in the first part of Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. At the same time, the lack of a transparent research program, explaining to the reader the choice of T.A. Starostina's point of view as a hypothesis, with a clear designation of specific research tasks and relevant methods, according to the reviewer, complicates the reading of the author's thought. There is a general desire of the author to maximize the economy of the text space of the article, accompanied by an involuntary disregard for formal explanations of the logic of the presentation of the research results. From the formal side, it would be appropriate as a research problem, even in the introductory part, for the author to express those doubts that encourage him to look for new arguments in favor of T.A. Starostina's assessment of the peculiarities of I. Stravinsky's neoclassical compositional "method": simply put, to explain to the reader the need for a detailed analysis of the process of "forming the general structure" of a musical work by the author, that in the scientific works analyzed by him, such an analysis of the first part of Capriccio is not presented or is not presented as vividly as the author seeks to do. Then, according to the reviewer, there would be no need to reduce the conclusion to the already known work, and if we recall the good work of a colleague, then with sufficient explanations of the question, what is the additional reasoning for its assessment, i.e. what is the novelty of the result achieved by the author. The author does not explain the relevance of the chosen topic, although it is clearly visible in an attempt to demonstrate the richness of neoclassical expressive means of the Russian school of composition, to which the genius of Igor Stravinsky undoubtedly belongs, based on a thorough analysis of empirical material. Today, when, due to circumstances far from musicology and science in general, the imaginary inferiority of Russian culture is broadcast, evidence of its advanced achievements is relevant both in terms of opposing the trend of "banning culture" and in terms of its self-identification with an orientation towards its own high achievements. The scientific novelty of the work consists, first of all, in a detailed analysis of the main elements of I. Stravinsky's musical language, which in the first part of Capriccio for Piano and orchestra indicate the peculiarities of the composer's implementation of the neoclassical "method". The style of the article is scientific: the only technical slip noticed by the reviewer can be easily corrected ("The structure of the first part can be defined as a free improvisational fantasy [improvisational???] of a character with elements of a contrasting composite form"). The structure as a whole reveals the logic of presenting the results of scientific research, although, as the reviewer noted, the introductory part and the final conclusion should be strengthened. The bibliography, taking into account the empirical nature of the main argument, sufficiently reveals the problematic area of research; it is designed in accordance with editorial requirements. The appeal to the opponents is generally correct and quite sufficient, with the exception, as the reviewer noted above, of an inappropriate and illogical appeal to the opinion of T.A. Starostina in the final conclusion. In this form, as presented in the article at the moment, this appeal negates the need for the work done by the author, and therefore the need for publication. The reviewer believes that the above remarks do not prevent the publication of a generally decent manuscript.
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