Stravinsky began work on ‘Petrushka’in the summer of 1910, shortly after the successful première of his first ballet, ‘The Firebird’. Like ‘The Firebird’, and ‘The Rite of Spring’ which came later, ‘Petrushka’ was written for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The choreographer was Mikhail Fokine and the title role was danced by the mercurial, Vaslav Nijinsky. Nijinsky was also involved with this production of ‘Rite’ but as the choreographer rather than dancer. The choreography, in keeping with the ballet’s subject matter and the composer’s use of dissonance and complex rhythms, made a complete break with tradition. Looking back on the tumultuous première, Stravinsky described the curtain as rising on ‘rows of knock-kneed Lolitas’. The first performance which took place on 29 May 1913, was of course one of the most famous scandals in musical history.
Both of the Stravinsky ballet scores here recorded by Erich Leinsdorf in the 1970s, were released on Decca’s then super-sonic Phase 4 imprint. Decca’s lurid cover for ‘Petrushka’ caused a stir and is reproduced here on this Eloquence reissue – the first release on Decca CD. Thomas Rajna, solo pianist for the ‘Petrushka’ recordings, has contributed his own reminiscences for this release.
Le Sacre du printemps (1921 version)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Petrushka (1911 version)*
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Thomas Rajna, piano
*FIRST INTERNATIONAL RELEASE ON CD
Recording Producers: Gavin Barratt (Petrushka); Raymond Few (Le Sacre du printemps)
Balance Engineer: Arthur Lilley
Recording Location: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 15 June 1970 (Petrushka), 15 December 1973 (Le Sacre du printemps)
Remastering Engineer: Paschal Byrne (Audio Archiving Company)
‘always interesting, sympathetic and never forced […] and an excellent contribution from Thomas Rajna at the piano’ (Petrushka) Gramophone, March 1971
‘by no means inconsiderable as a performance, and often very clearly recorded’ (Le Sacre du printemps) Gramophone, October 1975