Stravinsky: Moderato (‘Les cinq doigts’)  [0’43”]

Anatoly Sheludyakov, piano

29 Igor Stravinsky, Vera Stravinsky, Coco Chanel

A treat for students of body language. Igor and Coco, their liaison behind them, separated by the second Mrs Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) wrote the eight tiny pieces he called The five fingers in February 1921, during an otherwise fallow period.  Though their naivety might seem studied coming from the composer of the Rite of spring, it derives rather from the fact that they were intended for children to play.  As he explained, “the five fingers of the right hand, once on the keys, remain in the same position sometimes even for the whole length of the piece, while the left hand, which is accompanying the melody, executes a harmonic or contrapuntal pattern of the utmost simplicity.”

Astonishingly, footage survives of Stravinsky teaching this very Moderato.  I lie, of course.  The clip is from Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, a visually delectable piece of – what’s the word? – tosh based on Stravinsky’s affair around this time with the formidable fashion designer Coco Chanel, played by the unfathomably desirable Anna Mouglalis.  Unlike much else in the movie, this liaison does seem actually to have taken place.  Chanel herself confided as much towards the end of her interesting and varied life (as well as creating Chanel No 5 she was a Nazi collaborator), and Stravinsky’s trusted lieutenant-cum-amanuensis Robert Craft had it from the composer’s second wife.  Just a bit of historical tittle-tattle for you there (I know what sells).

40 years after their composition, that is in 1962, Stravinsky scored these pieces for 15 players as Eight instrumental miniatures.

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