Music and Vision homepage Jenna Orkin: Writer Wannabe Seeks Brush With Death - From the heights of greatness (the Juilliard School; musicians Rosalyn Tureck and Nadia Boulanger) via way-ward paths to the depths of wickedness these reminiscences will entertain and enlighten.

 

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Stravinsky's orchestral ballet suite Petruschka was completed in 1911 (premièred by Fokine/Diaghilev's Ballets Russes), revised in 1946 and adapted in part for piano as Trois mouvements de 'Pétrouchka' (1921). When Stravinsky first met prodigy Artur Rubinstein he promised to write the young virtuoso a piano sonata based on the material of Petrushka.

What he finally delivered was a transcription of three sections of his orchestral score. It is not, he stressed, a reduction for piano nor a piece in which the piano seeks to imitate an orchestra, but a piece of real piano music published as 'Three Movements from Petrushka.'

Through the intervening years a whole bunch of eminent concert pianists have recorded the Trois mouvements, though several, who ought to know better, seem to see it as a gladiatorial keyboard event and go at the work like 'a bull at a gate'.

Kuschnerova is not among them -- her glittering technique is spine-tingling, but better still she emphasises the score's exotic colours and lively, animated folk elements. Each of the contrasting movements is given a vibrant and magically persuasive reading.

Attend carefully to Kuschnerova's three tableaux -- you'll be aware of all the carnival merriment, the maze of flickering lights and tinsel, the bustle and confusion of families, lovers and children, and Petrushka's gauche attempts to impress the ballerina.

Until hearing this recording I preferred the original orchestral realisation. Now I'm not so sure [listen -- track 22, 7:18-8:53].

Two Pieces: a 'Scherzo' and 'Gavotte with variations' from Pulcinella (1920), attributed to Pergolesi (1710-1736), derive from the orchestral score. Note again Stravinsky's penchant for classical models.

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Copyright © 7 October 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand

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