"Composed by Stravinsky in 1927-1928 « Apollon Musagète » (or « Apollo ») is a ballet for string orchestra roughly contemporary with the poem « Fragments of Narcissus » by Paul Valery (*). The formal rigor is common to musician and to poet. Both are able to innovate within the constraints of an apparently classical form. In the work of Stravinsky or that of Valéry, this classic or baroque appearance obvious (one thinks of Bach Corelli or Racine) is in reality a very personal tour de force. If we look at the score or the text of the poem, we can no longer be blind to the constant richness of the invention.
Having already played « Narcisse » on the stage :), I want only to detail one short passage from the first scene (Birth of Apollo) entitled « Appearance of two goddesses ». Stravinsky sets the melodic line with great care, the selected and scholarly dissonances (more sensitive at the piano) warp discreetly the polyphony. Nothing is installed, the surprise is that of an instability where the melody moves constantly - and gently - away from too easy paths.
Consulted by the composer, in particular about the redaction of his Harvard lectures in 1939, intitled « Poétique musicale » and written in French, Paul Valéry had been surprised to find so many similarities between this Stravinsky's Poétique and his own teaching of poetry at the Collège de France.
A few years earlier, he had already had occasion to admire the musician. About his oratorio « Perséphone », he had written to Stravinsky: « It seems that what I'm looking in my art, you join it with your own : Attain purity by the will. »"
(*) See: youtube.com/watch?v=aTohVjXSV5c