Listen to Stravinsky Having Fun with 18th Century Melodies

Jun 18, 2018

Early music has been a lifelong passion of conductor  Nicholas McGegan.   It’s also informed the efforts of composers known for quite different styles, including Stravinsky. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more

While Nicholas McGegan is a renowned expert in early music, he also relishes finding connections among pieces from different periods. Stravinsky, whose  controversial music to the ballet, The Rite of Spring, made him an international sensation, turned to 18th century melodies when he wrote the score for Pulcinella.

“It’s known as his neoclassical period,” McGegan says. “And what he’s done is taken music by Pergolesi and Domenico Gallo and quite a few anonymous pieces and dressed them up. He “Stravinsky-ized”  them, he says with a grin.

How did he do that?

“Instead of going dum dum diddly dum, the trombone goes [WAHHHH].. It’s a little bit rasperry-esque, shall we say.  Which is fine because it’s all based on comedy, so it is meant to be fun but it does have some sentimental moments.”

The ballet premiered in1920 at the Paris Opera, billed as “music of Pergolesi arranged and orchestrated by …   Stravinsky.” The composer created an orchestral suite which premiered in Boston in 1922. Stravinsky described Pulcinella as a “discovery of the past,” which made his later work possible.

“I think it’s a wonderful piece,” reflects McGegan. “And sweet for people who think modern music is a bit terrifying, not that this is modern – it’s written maybe a hundred years ago - but it’s very graceful and good fun!”

Sunday June 24th on WRTI 90.1, Nicholas McGegan conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra in a performance of Stravinsky’s Suite from Pulcinella. Also on the program is music of Respighi, Handel, Locatelli and Rossini.