Musical Moments with Anthony Tommasini: Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms

"It is not a symphony in which I have included Psalms to be sung. On the contrary, it is the singing of the Psalms that I am symphonizing." --- Igor Stravinsky

The Symphony of Psalms is a three-movement choral symphony and was composed by Igor Stravinsky in 1930 during his neoclassical period. The work was commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The symphony derives its name from the use of Psalm texts in the choral parts.

The work represented Stravinsky's need to express his faith and desire to do homage to God. However, the fact that he was a devout believer did not mean that the work ought to be looked upon as a personal confession of faith. It can be understood as a projection of Stravinsky's own faith through the imagined faith of an anonymous congregation. It remains a highly dramatic work nevertheless.

Anthony Tommasini, classical music critic of The New York Times, performs some of his favorite classical musicmoments on piano.

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