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NOTES Stravinsky: Petrushka, Burlesque in Four Tableaux

For piccolos I–II, flutes I–II, oboes I–III, English horn, clarinets I–III, bass clarinet, bassoons I–III, contrabassoon; horns I–IV, cornets I–II, trumpets I–II, trombones I–III, tuba; timpani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tambourine, tam-tam, xylophone, glockenspiel; harps I–II, piano, celesta; strings.

Composed winter 1910 in Beaulieu-sur-mer–26 May 1911 in Rome; dedicated to Alexandre Benois; rewritten 1947 to secure the copyright and to adapt the ballet for smaller orchestra (in this version the piano has a greater role).

First performed 13 June 1911, by the Ballets Russes at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, Pierre Monteux conducting.

Published by Éditions Russes de Musique [Boosey and Hawkes, Inc. in the west]; revised edition published by Boosey and Hawkes, Inc. (London, 1947). Inexpensive scores: Stravinsky: Petrushka, ed. Charles Hamm, A Norton Critical Score (New York: Norton, 1967); Igor Stravinsky: Petrushka in Full Score, Original ersion (New York: Dover, 1988)

Duration: about 35 minutes

Stravinsky’s second ballet for Diaghilev took shape in the composer’s imagination when, as he was composing an unrelated work, the image of an exasperating puppet kept coming to mind. It was clear that The Rite of Spring would not be ready for the 1911 season, so Stravinsky suggested the puppet story to Diaghilev, who had a scenario prepared and engaged Michel Fokine for the choreography and Vaclav Nijinsky for the title role. Petrushka of the Mardi-Gras fair is common to many folk traditions, not so different from Punch of Punch and Judy shows or Pulcinella of the Italian commedia dell’arte—“the immortal and unhappy hero,” Stravinsky called him, “of every fair.”

The score is a masterpiece, overflowing with memorable descriptive vignettes; a fresh harmonic idiom that yields, in the scene in Petrushka’s room a wonderful bitonal sonority (simultaneous chords of C and F-sharp major) generally called “the Petrushka chord;” and fine rhythmic and metric effects, particularly in the unmitigated confusion of crowd scenes. In its entirety the enormous orchestra exudes the effervescence of the Shrovetide Fair; in smaller groupings—drone and winds for the barrel organ, glockenspiel for the music box, the pair of clarinets for Petrushka’s curse—the orchestration can be more vivid still. A good deal of the melodic material comes from Russian folksong, popular French melody (in the second of the organ tunes, for example), and, for the waltz, the music of the Viennese composer Joseph Lanner (1801– 43).

The ballet score is very effective as a concert piece, but it is important to imagine the story as it goes by:

First Tableau. The curtain rises on a fairground, to one side of which is a little puppet theater of the sort often found in European parks and gardens. It is Mardi Gras (Shrovetide); the weather is still cold. Tipsy merrymakers lurch by. A magician- puppeteer enters and beckons the crowd toward the theater. An organ grinder and dancer appear; she dances to the hurdy-gurdy, beating time on her triangle, as though a doll herself. The puppeteer again tries to attract the crowd; the revelers return.

Drummers announce the beginning of the puppet show. With a flick of his wrist (The Magic rick), the old puppeteer raises the curtain. Three puppets lie on stage: Petrushka,


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