Daily Archives: December 8, 2009 5:03 pm

Musical surprises #8: Petrushka’s not all by Stravinsky

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Well, not exactly, but the point is that one of the big tunes  in the Wet Nurses’ dance in Stravinsky’s Petrushka is a Russian folk song  (Я вечор млада во пиру была | I was a young maiden at the feast) which had already been published in piano duet form by Tchaikovsky between 1868-9.  In fact, if you play through the book (available digitized online from ISMLP) you’ll recognise all kinds of tunes from Tchaikovsky’s own works, Petrushka and Firebird. There’s no great secret about this, and Richard Taruskin for one has written in great detail about Stravinsky’s folk sources and borrowings  (here’s just a taste of Taruskin’s work on the subject). Nonetheless, the surprising thing to me is to hear just  how much of what sounds ‘modern’ in Stravinsky’s work was already present in the original source.  Another surprise is when you consider just how unsurprising it would be if you were Russian.

Here’s a rough recording of the song, which is No. 19 from 50 Russian Folk Songs

vechormlada