Behind the programme: De Falla, Lalo and Stravinsky with Jaime Martín

Jaime Martín makes his LSO conducting debut with a programme that features ballet suites by Igor Stravinsky and Manuel de Falla, alongside Edouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole. We talked to Jaime about how the programme came to life and his collaboration with violin soloist Christian Tetzlaff.

Both Stravinsky’s The Firebird and de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat are works that have strong links to their composers’ national identities, due to the elements of folk music and vernacular dance styles used in the ballets. However, both owe their genesis to the melting pot of creativity that was Paris in the early 1900s. The ballets were commissioned for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and are the result of starry collaborations between some of Europe's most infuential artists. Here's a summary:

 

The Three Cornered Hat

The Firebird

Premiered in 

London 1919

Paris 1910

Premiered at

Alhambra Theatre

Palais Garnier

Composed by

Manuel De Falla

Igor Stravinsky

Choreographed by

Léonide Massine

Mikhail Fokine

Costumes and designs by

Pablo Picasso

Léon Bakst

Both are narrative ballets, and Mikhail Fokine’s telling of the Firebird story uses the traditional vocabulary and techniques of classical ballet. The Three Cornered Hat is a character ballet, and the choreography is informed by many of classical ballet’s principles, but incorporates the dance styles of folk cultures from across Europe. As in many of Diaghilev’s most successful commissions, directness and immediate appeal combine with modernity – here through collaboration with some of the 1900s most forward-looking composers and visual artists – to create productions which achieved popularity in their time and which have had lasting cultural resonances.

Dancers in The Three Cornered Hat

Chris van Niekerk, Maxine Denys and Harold King in a 1960s production of The Three Cornered Hat

The music the Orchestra will play is adapted from the original ballet scores, which makes for a more concise and exciting musical offering at a concert. Stravinsky’s 1945 Suite is one of the best-loved pieces in today’s repertoire, but De Falla’s work is less-often performed. Jaime said about the programme:

‘It can be tricky putting together a programme as a guest conductor. Before we arrived at it, we tried about ten other ideas, looking for something that fits with everything else the Orchestra is playing. But I think the one we’ve put together is going to work. The connection that both ballets were commissioned by the same company makes it really interesting.’

Edouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole is music from an earlier age, but which has all the energy of the ballet suites it sits alongside. Composed in 1874 and premiered in Paris in 1875 with legendary violinist Pablo Sarasate, the piece takes the form of a violin concerto, and in its own time welcomed in a Parisian fashion for Spanish-inspired music, with Bizet’s Carmen premiering just a month later. In Jaime’s words:

‘The Lalo used to be a very popular piece, but it hasn’t been played as much recently. It was Christian’s idea. He wanted to play it! It’s something we’ve already played together, back when I was a flute player in the orchestra, and it fits with the character of the De Falla. The Symphonie espagnole is Lalo’s most famous piece. Most of his music we don’t know, but it is very colourful and his use of percussion is fantastic. French composers at the time were fascinated by Spanish themes – Ravel, Debussy – even some Russian composers, like Rimsky-Korsakov. It’s really like a festival of dance.’