Stravinsky’s Divertimento, The Fairy’s Kiss Suite

Notes by TŌN cellist Sarah Schoeffler

The History
Le Baiser de la fée (The Fairy’s Kiss) is a one-act ballet composed in 1928 by the Russian pianist, composer, and conductor Igor Stravinsky. Over the years, the ballet underwent several prominent revisions and adaptations. One of the most lasting results from such efforts is the Divertimento, an orchestral suite comprised of music taken from the ballet. It is the result of a collaboration between Stravinsky and violinist Samuel Dushkin. In 1932, for Dushkin, Stravinsky created an arrangement of The Fairy’s Kiss for violin and piano alone entitled Divertimento, and two years later he orchestrated the same music into the concert suite heard here. The concert suite contains approximately half of the music from the original ballet.

Adaptation and Admiration
The ballet itself was Stravinsky’s adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Ice Maiden, and was Stravinsky’s chance to pay homage to Tchaikovsky. Despite his derision of romanticism, Stravinsky had long admired Tchaikovsky, treasuring a childhood memory of when he caught a glimpse of the great composer at a concert in St. Petersburg. In The Fairy’s Kiss, Stravinsky combined fragments from Tchaikovsky with his own composition so persuasively that Stravinsky later said he lost track of what belonged to whom.

The Music and Story
The Divertimento is comprised of four movements: Sinfonia, Danses suisses, Scherzo, and Pas de deux. Sinfonia is taken from the introductory scene of the ballet, and portrays a disoriented mother lost with her child in a storm. As in the Hans Christian Anderson tale, the fairy’s sprites steal the baby away from the mother. You can hear Stravinsky’s characteristic rhythmic brilliance in this movement. The next movement, Danses suisses, depicts the engagement party for the child, now a grown man. In the Scherzo movement, the fairy leads the young man to a mill where his betrothed is with her friends. In the last movement, Pas de deux, the lovers’ dance, we enjoy some of the most exquisitely beautiful writing of the entire work.