Friday, February 15, 2008

Carnivals and Puppets

It's Petrushka week for me up in Dayton! We're doing Stravinsky's complete 1911 version but with one additional audience aid: projected slides that tell the story of the "living" puppet Petrushka as the orchestra performs the piece. What a good idea.

In my eight years experience playing regularly as an orchestral pianist, I have not yet had the opportunity to perform this classic standard. Of course I've played it many, many times for every orchestral audition that I have taken (it is usually one of the more prominent required excerpts for any keyboard audition) but now I can finally get a real, in-context performance of the work behind me. It's one of those milestones that can make you feel like you're a more complete and accomplished orchestral player. It is very demanding technically with its emphasis on fast 16th-note passagework in octaves and chords (in the "Russian Dance"). But the work also requires a sensitive touch in the second tableau, where the solo piano first represents Petrushka's curses and laments and then later the arrival of the Ballerina (Petrushka's unattainable love interest).

The Petrushka score features plenty of other solo showcases for many other instruments as well; there are big solos for flute, trumpet, tuba ("the bear"!), english horn, and clarinet.

Petrushka is the second of Stravinsky's three cherished ballet pieces composed for Sergei Diaghilev's company in Paris in the years of 1909-1913. (The other two ballet-works are The Firebird and the infamous Rite of Spring.) Read more about Stravinsky and Petrushka here.


The Curries said...

Josh- Fantastic job this weekend! (And last weekend as well, with the Bach Cantata organ solos.) We're lucky to have you in Dayton. :)


Joshua Nemith said...

Thanks for the kind comments, Sheridan - I feel lucky to be there!