Petrushka: the ghost in the machine

This week we’ll listen to just the one work. Petrushka, Stravinsky’s – by common consent – most ‘russian’ score tells the tragic story of a puppet cursed with a soul.

As well as following the ballet and (re)discovering how the composer turns story into music, the piece will also give us a chance to study the musical techniques that were used to create the different elements of this dazzling score.

Here’s a little something to whet your appetite…

2 clarinets:

This is called the Petrushka ‘chord’ (OK, OK, so it isn’t a chord, but this is

and it’s exactly the same notes – apart from the occasional octave transposition – but arranged vertically [harmonically] rather than horizontally [melodically].)

…the Petrushka chord (the musical ‘signature’ of our puppet-hero) is, like Scriabin’s ‘Mystic Chord’ or Wagner’s ‘Tristan Chord’, both instantly recognisable and (moderately?) famous.


Stravinsky: Petrushka
Peter Donohoe – Petrushka – Scènes burlesques en quatre tableaux, Première tableau: Fête populaire de la semaine grasse
[petrushka rattle donohoe firebird]

No score, I’m afraid; it’s not yet in the public domain in the EU.

Course materials:
Petrushka synopsis

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