Saturday afternoons earlier this year were much enlivened by the BBC radio series ‘Conversations with Craft’ in which Stephen Walsh talked to Stravinsky’s sometime companion and assistant, Robert Craft, about the time of their collaboration. Among Craft’s many interesting contributions was the following, concerning the transition from the Cantata (1952) to the Septet:

There are sketches – several pages of sketches – for instrumental movements in the Cantata. He finished the Cantata in a big hurry, because he wanted to write something else and pursue what he had written in the Ricercar [i.e. Ricercar II]; and he went immediately into the Septet. And it’s fascinating to watch what happens in the Septet, going from key signature and signature tune – which is of course Dumbarton Oaks Concerto [sings] – and the first movement more or less academic, with development section, exact recapitulation… and then the key signatures drop. Then the second movement is everything – it’s not the third movement, it’s the second movement, the Passacaglia, that’s where the big change occurs. The Gigue is of course the Passacaglia repeated; it’s exactly the same note arrangements. And he had ideas there, that this should be… that this is a series and notes can be repeated, but also the connections of instruments, each instrument playing two notes at the beginning, and then the very formal exhibition … still the same old Johannes Brahms is the spirit of it, that movement, particularly the last variation, which is an utter marvel, because all seven instruments are playing the same pianissimo and you must hear every note and you do hear every note, and the range, and the daring ideas in the horn, going from high D to some very low note and just a few notes in the piano 205… I think that’s the new Stravinsky. And he didn’t in fact write the Gigue until somewhat later, the beginning of 1953. 1