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About this Piece

   More than a century after their premieres, Igor Stravinsky’s three landmark ballets from the 1910s (The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring) still manage to sound fresh and modern. As a student of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky (1882–1971) acquired his teacher’s love of Russian folksong and mastery of orchestral color. The Firebird (1911) introduced many techniques that the young composer would develop over the next two decades, in particular a driving approach to rhythm that was frequently complex, and the use of melodic “cells” that are freely transformed and repeated to form the basis of larger structures. Petrushka (1911) built on the achievements of The Firebird and went far beyond it in rhythmic and harmonic complexity. In 1921, Stravinsky transcribed three dances from the ballet for his friend, the great Polish pianist and longtime Los Angeles resident, Arthur Rubinstein. The dances are adapted from different tableaux, as Stravinsky called the various scenes: the vibrant Russian Dance that helps set the mood for the Shrovetide festival near the beginning; the music that accompanies a scene in Petrushka’s Room; and later festivities related to The Shrovetide Fair. —Thomas Neenan