Stravinsky met the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas just the once, on 22 May 1953 in Boston. He was hoping they could collaborate on an opera. Stravinsky had invited Thomas to his Hollywood home to discuss the project, but he never arrived. Thomas died in New York on 9 November 1953. ‘All I could do was cry’, recalled Stravinsky. His response was this poignant, melancholic setting for tenor and string quartet of the villanelle ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, a memorial text for Thomas’s own father, with its powerful refrain, ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’. It is framed by two ‘dirge-canons’ for string quartet and a quartet of trombones. Though it is Stravinsky’s first genuinely serial work, the music’s lamenting character reaches back deep into Stravinsky’s musical past.
Repertoire note by Jonathan Cross