Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella was written for Les Ballets Russes after the great triumph of The Firebird and the great scandal of The Rite of Spring, but it marked a new compositional direction. Stravinsky would later remark, “Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible.” The inspiration for Pulcinella, outside of the music of the past, was commedia dell’arte, Italian improvised theater and its stock characters.
In the staged ballet, Stravinsky reinvented the music with movement, lively characters, and even singing roles. Pulcinella Suite is a pared-down version of the ballet (nearly half the movements are omitted in the suite) with instrumental passages replacing the singing roles. The one act ballet consists of 21 excerpts whereas the suite has only eight movements (Sinfonia, Serenata, Scherzino, Tarantella, Toccata, Gavotta, Vivo and Minuetto). Stravinsky’s work with music of the past retains much of the charm of the original pieces, but with harmonic and rhythmic twists that are pure twentieth-century inventiveness, and pure Stravinsky. Pulcinella Suite premiered in December of 1922 in Boston with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Pierre Monteux.
“Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible.”
In LACO History
LACO’s first performance of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite was in 1979 under the direction of British conductor Brian Priestman. Former LACO music directors Gerard Schwarz, Christof Perick and Jeffrey Kahane have also conducted Pulcinella Suite.
More about LACO AT HOME
The coronavirus pandemic may prevent us from gathering together to share music in person, but current circumstances will not prevent LACO from providing you with exquisite, enduring, personal musical experiences. We are happy to announce that the musicians of LACO have generously volunteered to share a wide variety of audio and video options during this time. All broadcasts can be live-streamed at laco.org/broadcasts and streamed on-demand at laco.org/on-demand.