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The tale of Petrouchka is set in 19th century St. Petersburg, at the Shrovetide fair during "Butter Week", and features the three puppets Petrouchka, the Dancer and the Moor. The poor loser Petrouchka is hopelessly, platonically enamored of the pretty Dancer, and tries to draw her attention while she dances at the fair. But she is put off and frightened by his clumsy advances, and instead falls for the charms of the swaggering macho Moor. When Petrouchka desperately tries to intervene, the Moor chases him and cuts him down. Before the bewildered crowds, the Moor picks up the remains of Petrouchka, and sawdust falls out. See, he was only a puppet ! But after the fair has ended, to everybody's horror, the white-faced ghost of Petrouchka hovers over the booth where he used to perform.

Stravinsky's orchestral score for Petrouchka was commissioned by Diaghilev, the impresario of the famous Ballets Russes. It is a riot of colors and sounds, masterfully evoking the grease-paint atmosphere of the Russian fair. We hear organ grinders, trumpets, a barrel organ, drum rolls, snake charmer's flutes, and the shouts and shrieks of performers and the milling crowd.

The two-hand piano transcription of 3 crucial scenes (Danse Russe, Chez Petrouchka, and La Semaine Grasse) was composed in 1921 at the request of Artur Rubinstein, who however never recorded it. A virtuoso work popular with great pianists, successfully keeps much of the verve of the orchestral version (in which the piano already played an important role). The wealth of quasi-orchestral detail, written often on 3 staves in different meters, presents the pianist with formidable technical and rhythmical challenges, making this one of the most fearsomely difficult works in all piano literature.

The four-hand version of the entire ballet, presented here, is perhaps less hard to play but sounds if possible even more luxurious.


Complete recording by Graziella Concasand Dario Strazzeri

Live recording, 2010
Petrouchka (complete ballet) 31:21 Concas, G. (with Dario Strazzeri, piano 4-hands)
Jan 7, 2016
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