Rubies sends its dancers racing across the stage like lightning to Stravinsky’s jazz-inflected piano capriccio, emphasized by a sharp attack and sassy style.
Igor Stravinsky composed his three-movement Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, the music for Rubies, in 1928-29. He intended it as a vehicle for his own appearances as a concert pianist and as something of a relief from his Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, which he had written five years before for the same purpose. The Capriccio is, in effect, a second piano concerto. Stravinsky said that as he wrote this score he had in mind Carl Maria von Weber, a composer he championed; in fact, he quotes Weber in the music. Another of Stravinsky’s enthusiasms that affects the Capriccio is the cimbalom. Figurations typical of this east European instrument are in evidence at various places in the solo piano part—in certain repeated notes and in the cadenza in the second movement, for example. Balanchine set the second movement as a pas de deux for the principal dancers, and they and a soloist dance with the corps de ballet in various combinations in the outer movements.
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