Though usually known by its French title, “Les Noces” (The Wedding), this piece is ‘wedded’ so strongly to Stravinsky’s native tongue that I prefer to think of it by its original Russian title.
Stravinsky’s apotheosis of his Russian-folk style gave birth to almost as many developments as the iconoclastic Rite of Spring. The Rite was an amazing achievement, coming only thirty years after Brahm’s second Piano Concerto; but the novel rhythms, form, harmonies were still mostly clothed in the symphonic and balletic traditions of that earlier time. Just a few years later in Svadebka (1923, though the piece was musically complete by 1917) even this was chucked: the all-percussion and piano ensemble, counterpointed with soloists and chorus sharing the pit with the instruments; the whole piece one non-stop, carefully-geared motor; the cut/paste/overlay/interlock of the musical structure; the intensly emotional singing and playing presented without the slightest trace of sentimentality; the folk idiom morphed into simply raw material for the highest abstraction… All these have been picked up and run with, from the piece’s premiere all the way to the “downtown” folk of our own generation.
This YouTube video shows a Royal Ballet production, that recreates the original 1923 Bronislava Nijinska choreography. It’s in three parts and rather than start at the beginning I’ll just plop you down in the middle of the piece, when things are really bubbling away (parts 1 and 3 are easily found on the right sidebar at the YouTube page).