I attended a performance of “Agon” last weekend by the New York City Ballet. It was my first time seeing “Agon” as a ballet and it was a memorable performance. I am a fan of Balanchine’s no scenery and leotards: no where to hide—just music, dance, and performance.
So much has been written and said about Igor Stravinsky’s shift to or towards 12-tone composition, some of which is found in “Agon.” Often Stravinsky’s reverence for Webern is noted and is obvious in the klangfarbenmelodie passages. However, when listening to last week’s performance I could not help hear Varèse. Stravinsky’s use of mixed winds, brass, percussion and Morse code like rhythms all brought to mind Varèse (not the music influenced by Stravinsky) and in particular “Octandre.” In a few days I will construct a few clips to demonstrate what I hear(d).