In one week we will begin rehearsals for our next Masterworks concert. I'm geeky in that I truly love 99% of all the music we play. Even pieces that I'm not enamored with on first reading usually grow on me throughout the rehearsal process. This concert, though, I have been anticipating since the '09-'10 season was announced last year. I love Petrushka. It's in my top 20 of favorite orchestral works and it's certainly my favorite piece by Stravinsky to play. I like Petrushka so much that I'm even looking forward to practicing it, and, as you know, practicing is not my favorite activity.
So why is Petrushka so great? Well, the music was actually written for the ballet, so it's programmatic. You can visualize the story when you hear the music. Petrushka is the story of three puppets who have been brought to life by magic. There is a love triangle, fighting, a death, and, ultimately Petrushka himself becomes an angry ghost. How can you NOT like a story like that?! The music itself brings the story to life. We can hear Petrushka, the bustling market square, the beautiful ballerina, and the slow but powerful Moore.
I will say that the first time I played Petrushka it was not one of my favorites. I liked it but I didn't think it was that special. It was one of those pieces that grew on me after getting to know it better. Now, obviously, I love it. This is a piece that becomes more enjoyable the more times you listen to it. Actually, I think this is true of all classical music. Listening to music is not like going to a movie. Knowing the ending already won't diminish your enjoyment of subsequent listenings. In fact, the opposite is true. Take holiday concerts, for example. Part of the reason why everyone loves them is because most of the music is very familiar. Wouldn't it make sense to heighten your enjoyment of other concerts by becoming familiar with the music in advance? The Knox County Public Library has recordings of Petrushka as well as a book analyzing the score (if you really want to get into it...). YouTube has many excerpts of Petrushka available including several performances by ballet companies. Prepare! Come! Enjoy!