About This Work
When Igor Stravinsky returned to the score of his 1911 ballet Petrushka in 1947, he did so having dedicated much of his creative energies during the intervening decades to developing a more economical, streamlined, objective style. On one hand, then,
the 1947 revision of the work might be considered a retroactive application of the composer's neo-Classicist tendencies. On the other hand, the revised version brings out certain elements of the work that had been part of its initial creative conception -- even before Stravinsky had determined to use the musical ideas in a ballet.
In fact, Stravinsky initially undertook Petrushka as a kind of compositional reprieve between the completion of the ballet The Firebird for the Ballets Russes in 1910 and the commencement of the score for The Rite of Spring, for the same troupe, in 1913. He imagined a work for orchestra with a prominent piano part; the pianist he imagined as some kind of clownish puppet come to life, "exasperating the patience of the orchestra with diabolical cascades of arpeggios." The impresario of the Ballet Russes, Sergey Diaghilev, heard in the excerpts Stravinsky played for him the possibility of another ballet, and the work was thus expanded from its original concert scope to its full theatrical realization.
The 1947 version of Petrushka returns to the music something of its original character and adapts it for concert rather than stage performance. As the second of Stravinsky's three "Russian Period" ballets, the 1911 production had called for rather large orchestral forces; the revised score trims most of the wind parts from four players to three and sharpens the textures. Also, the piano itself is given pride of place, helping to articulate the bitonal harmonies that, in the ballet, had been the title character's musical signature.
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