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Program Notes: Pulcinella - available until
Costa Mesa, California
Friday, 16 April 2021 - 7:00 PM
Presenter: Pacific Symphony
Ensemble: Pacific Symphony
Conductor: Carl St.Clair
For this March 18 Symphony @ 7 program, Music Director Carl St.Clair has chosen Suite from "Pulcinella" by Igor Stravinsky. “‘Pulcinella’ was my discovery of the past," Stravinsky wrote, "the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible. It was a backward look, of course—the first of many love affairs in that direction—but it was a look in the mirror, too."

This concert will be available for FREE streaming on our YouTube and Facebook channels from March 18 through April 16.


SPONSORS


Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Virtual Classical Series



Janet Curci Family Foundation




PROGRAM NOTES
Igor Stravinsky (1881-1971)
Suite from “Pulcinella”
Scored for strings, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, trumpet and trombone 
Duration: 15:25

Igor Stravinsky was one of the 20th century’s most influential composers. He first achieved success with his collaborations with Serge Diaghilev, founder and impresario of the Ballets Russes, a company that produced many famous dancers and choreographers. “The Firebird” (1910) and “Petrouchka” (1911) put Stravinsky on the map. But his 1913 ballet, “The Rite of Spring” was so revolutionary, its premiere caused a riot!

With his next work for the Ballets Russes, Stravinsky did a complete 180. Diaghilev had suggested to the composer that he take a look at some 18th-century scores with the idea of orchestrating them as a ballet. “When he said that the composer was Pergolesi, I thought he must be deranged,” Stravinsky later recalled, thinking disparagingly of the “Stabat Mater” and the slight comic opera, “La serva padrona,” two Pergolesi works that never impressed him. Nonetheless, he promised Diaghilev he would take a look.

“I looked and I fell in love,” commented Stravinsky. Then he took a new approach to writing a ballet. “I began by composing on the Pergolesi manuscripts themselves, as though I were correcting an old work of my own,” he wrote. “I knew that I could not produce a ‘forgery’ of Pergolesi because my motor habits are so different; at best, I could repeat him in my own accent.”

The end result was that Stravinsky left most of the melodies and bass lines intact, while he altered rhythms and added more intricate, modern harmonies. Stravinsky later said, “The remarkable thing about ‘Pulcinella’ is not how much, but how little has been added or changed.” And yet, the piece is both classic and modern at the same time.

“Pulcinella,” named after the clownish character of Italian commedia del rate and Neapolitan puppetry, was originally a 45-minute ballet with sets and costumes by Pablo Picasso and choreography by Leonide Massine. Stravinsky distilled a suite from the ballet that included eight movements. Carl St.Clair has selected five movements of that suite for performance tonight.

Ironically, Stravinsky said in his old age that “Pulcinella” was the only work of Pergolesi’s that he really liked.
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