Stravinsky: Petrushka Seamus Ryan Word Count: 430 Petrushka is my favourite orchestral work of Stravinsky’s for many reasons—

the devilish arpeggiated piano lines, the grounding in the tragic yet comical story of the corpified traditional puppet, and most of all the ingenuity of Stravinsky in musically conveying the range of character with his orchestration and his harmonic virtuosity. I think, however, that the music itself does benefit hugely from its participation in ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’. That is to say, it is very much programme music that can stand on its own, such is the effect of its musical evocation. This— despite never venturing into the challenging serialism that Stravinsky would practice later, was an incredibly difficult work to put on in all facets. In the original rehearsals for the Ballets Russes, the dancers found much difficulty in navigating the labyrinthine rhythms Stravinsky had embedded in the piece, Michael Fokine in particular recalls that:
‘After the appearance of the masqueraders, the 5/8 count is played at a very rapid pace. This was so difficult to grasp that my rehearsal changed into a lesson in rhythmics.’1

Petrushka, despite being bound to balletic confined, considerably broadened the boundaries of that medium. There are so many fantastic moments and passages in Petrushka to recall; the flute solo of the puppeteer, the sequence of the death of Petrushka the puppet, the ending of the second tableau, but I would have to say that my favourite sequence is the Russian dance from the first tableau. Alexandre Benois, who worked with

Michael Fokine, Memoirs of a Ballet Master, Vitale Fokine (trans.), (Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1961) 187-8.

2 .’2 In my opinion. W. Putnam & Company. (London. but despite that it was just as revolutionary within ballet and formed the touchstone for the rest of Stravinsky’s music.). shifting harmonics.W. 3 Charles Haam (ed. 1967) 15. or sacrificing the overall composition of the piece. there will be something new to notice always. ‘Stravinsky’s music is delicious’3.). Mary Britnieva (trans. As a critic said following the premiere of Petrushka. put it best when he said: ‘The Russian Dance proved to be really magic music in which infectious diabolical recklessness alternated with strange digressions into tenderness— then. I find it amazing how it seems to me that Stravinsky incorporates all the elements fully and wholly without them impeaching on each other.Stravinsky in the early stages of the orchestration. While Petrushka may not have caused riots like his following Sacre du Printemps soon would. (London. 1941) 324-6. came to an abrupt end. and pushed Stravinsky to develop the initial concept. Petrushka: An Authoritative Score of the Original Version. the Russian dance is the perfect culmination of all of the components of Stravinsky’s music— pulsating rhythms. I really enjoy listening to this piece because no matter how many times you listen to it. creative orchestration and playful melodies. Norton & Company. after a culminating paroxysm. Alexandre Benois. Reminiscences of the Russian Ballet.