“Three Movements from Petroushka” – Igor Stravinsky‏

by richibi

"Ballets Russes" - August Macke

Ballets Russes (1912)

August Macke


Donald, I said to my friend, the
musicologist, what’s the plural
of tenuto

I’d been lining up what I call my
“articles of pace”, the musical
notations that indicate tempo,

rubato, of course, for time stretched,
the bottom of a dip when your partner
pauses at the end of your arm where
you steal a private moment during
otherwise waltz time, or tango

rubato must be in the middle of a
bar cause a stolen moment needs
space to return to its more natural
rhythm, equilibrium

a ritardando, or rallentando, slows
down but at the end of a bar, or
musical statement, often at the very
end of a piece, for an introspective,
say, ending

an accelerando is its opposite,
speeding up the beat, and will
continue till it reaches its apogee,
climax, as it were

a tenuto holds, caresses, one note,
or one chord, only, before proceeding
any further

all of these words, incidentally, are
adverbs, not nouns, but through
usage have assimilated the idioms
of nouns, therefore singulars and
plurals, articles and adjectives

what’s the plural of tenuto, I’d

Donald, always a sport, answered
tersely, tenuti, grinning

you’re kidding me, I replied, boy,
will I have fun with that

two tenuti, three tenuti, four tenuti,
five, six tenuti, seven tenuti, eight
tenuti, jive, I continued, racking up
immediate levity, not to mention
momentum, and cadence

count the tenuti in this masterpiece,
Stravinsky‘s Three Movements
from Petroushka
a programmatic
piece, Petroushka is a puppet in love
with a ballerina, but she’s in love
with a Moor, more about Moors later,
maybe, it could get controversial

Petroushka, distressed, challenges
the Moor, but the Moor kills him

Petroushka returns as a ghost, but
ineffectually, cause he’s really only,
finally, a puppet

Vaslav Nijinsky played Pertroushka
in the original production with
Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes, June 13,
1911, in Paris, the rest is history

in 1921 Stravinsky wrote an arrangement
for virtuosic, he specified, piano, using
three scenes only from the ballet as

1 – Danse russe (Russian Dance)
2 – Chez Pétrouchka (Petroushka’s Room)
3 – La semaine graisse (The Shrovetide Fair)

they’re fast, very fast, prestississimo,
you’ll miss the breaks if you blink,
where you’d be likely to find, if any,

good luck