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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Thursday, March 25

"Made to order music" by Stravinsky

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1946, Igor Stravinsky's "Ebony Concerto" was premiered at Carnegie Hall by the Woody Herman jazz band. It was Stravinsky’s most extended foray into the world of jazz–and he was a bit worried how it would turn out.

A few months before the premiere, Stravinsky wrote to Nadia Boulanger in Paris that the new score would be tailormade for Herman’s jazz band—and the two sides of a 78- rpm record: “I am composing a short concerto for the Woody Herman Band,” wrote Stravinsky.

“Herman will record the music under my supervision,” continued Stravinsky, “and it will be done on two sides of one record: 1st side, Moderato (2 & 1/2 minutes) and Andante (2 minutes); 2nd Side: Theme and Vartiations (3 minutes). The orchestra will consist of clarinet, oboe. 5 saxophones, 5 trumpets, horn, 3 trombones, double-bass, harp, piano, guitar and percussion. I am somewhat unnerved by my lack of familiarity with this sort of thing.”

He needn’t have worried. The fusion of the odd sonorities of Herman’s jazz band with Stravinsky’s neo-Classical inclinations resulted in a work that sounds a little like a swing-era version of one of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.

Music Played in Today's Program

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) Ebony Concerto Benny Goodman, clarinet; Columbia Jazz Combo; Igor Stravinsky, cond. Sony 64136

Additional Information

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