George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Photo © Paul Kolnik
Stravinsky dedicated Duo Concertant to Samuel Dushkin, a well-known violinist he met in 1931. The composer premiered the work with Dushkin in Berlin in 1932, and the pair gave recitals together across Europe for the next several years. The piece had long been a favorite of Balanchine — who had first heard it performed by Stravinsky and Dushkin soon after it was composed — but not until years later, when he was planning the 1972 Stravinsky Festival, did he decide to choreograph it.
The performance of the musicians on stage is integral to the conception of the ballet. Standing at the piano with the musicians, the dancers listen to the first movement. During the next three movements they dance, mirroring the music and each other, and pause several times to rejoin the musicians and to listen. In the final movement, the stage is darkened and the dancers perform within individual circles of light.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), born in Russia, is acknowledged as one of the great composers of the twentieth century. His work encompassed styles as diverse as Romanticism, Neoclassicism, and Serialism. His ballets for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes included The Firebird, Petrushka, The Rite of Spring, and Apollo. His music has been used in over thirty ballets originating with New York City Ballet from 1948 through 1987, including Danses Concertantes, Orpheus, The Cage, Agon, Monumentum pro Gesualdo, Rubies, Symphony in Three Movements, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Concerto for Two Solo Pianos, Suite from L’Histoire du Soldat, Concertino, and Jeu de Cartes.