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ABSTRACT

Igor Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petrushka is one of the most

technically and musically challenging pieces in the pianist's repertoire. Originally

written as Three Movements from Petrushka (possibly with the fullblown

orchestral version in mind later to be reduced), much of the technical difficulty

resides in Stravinsky's propensity for writing awkwardly constructed and irregular

patterns, extreme leaps, sequences of chordal progressions with wide stretches,

and percussive and detached effects.

In addition, unlike Chopin, considered one of the most lyrical and

idiomatic composers for the piano, Stravinsky was not concerned with different

lengths of fingers and were often embedded melodies within chordal passages.

Stravinsky himself made contradictory statements about Three Movements from

Petrushka. On the one hand, he defined Petrushka as "an essentially pianistic

piece" and tried to make the best use of the "resources appropriate to piano." On

the other hand, in other places, he pointed out the limitations of piano as an

artistic medium: "the piano reductions are absolutely incapable of conveying one's

thought conceived for an instrumental ensemble" (Appendix C). These

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conflicting statements about the pianistic quality of Petrushka suggest that

Stravinsky himself was aware of the techinical difficulties of his own music.

It is therefore important to have a good pianistic approach to this piece if it

is to be performed well. It is my belief that an understanding of the orchestral

coloring of the original score is necessary for a successful interpretation of this

piece, which is why I am writing about the genesis of its composition, focusing on

pertinent historical aspects. In its complete form, Petrushka was conceived as

music for the Ballets Russes, a company for which many composers wrote,

including Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Serge Prokofiev.

This document will trace the biographical information of the composer of

the Ballets Russes, Igor Stravinsky, and will give background information on the

Ballets Russes, including details of choreography and the Russian "Great

Exportation of Art", as well as compare the orchestral and piano versions of

Petrushka, and finally address specific technical problems for the pianist and

ways in which to overcome them.

It is my hope that this document will provide the pianist with important

and pertinent historical information as well as succinct guidelines and suggestions

which will aid in achieving the best possible performance of the piano version.

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