Regional Spotlight: Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite

by Steve Staruch, Minnesota Public Radio
September 17, 2009

St. Paul, Minn. — As The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra plans to say farewell to Artistic Partner Douglas Boyd next week, Classical Minnesota Public Radio is featuring some of his most memorable performances of the last six seasons.

This afternoon it's Igor Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite, pulled from his ballet, Pulcinella. Stravinsky would eventually be known as a neo-classicist, and his work on this ballet was what propelled him into that compositional period in his life.

Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev had already worked with Stravinsky in the 1910s on his ballets "The Firebird," "Petrushka" and "The Rite of Spring." By 1920, Diaghilev wanted something completely different and asked Stravinsky to write a ballet based on music from Baroque composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi using the Commedia dell'Arte character Pulcinella.

"Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible."
- Igor Stravinsky

Stravinsky reworked Pergolesi's music, along with other Baroque composers, by adjusting instrumentation and harmonies. Digging into music of men who came so long before him gave Stravinsky a new lease on composition.

"Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible," Stravinsky said.

The orchestral suite from the ballet has eight -movements: Sinfonia, Serenata, Scherzino, Tarantella, Toccata, Gavotta con due varazione, Vivo and Menuetto.

The performance by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra carries the typical Boyd hallmarks: a clean, buoyant romp with brilliant orchestral colors.

This concert was recorded by Minnesota Public Radio on April 26, 2008 at the Ordway Center in Saint Paul.

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