One record I’ve lugged around with me, my whole life, is a performance of the Revised 1947 Version of Petroushka by Igor Stravinsky. It’s conducted by him, and was produced in his 80th year, 1962. I have always thought, it’s his piece; he knows just how it should sound.
It’s fascinating to know how the composer, whether of a symphonic work or a honkytonk tune, hears and intends his work. I know interpretations, covers, and jamming on the changes can be just as interesting, but this particular recording seems to capture the complex score and complex feeling in what feels like the essential manner.
I imagine the orchestra seated before and looking up at the composer. The domed head, the long face, his round glasses covering eyes fitting for a guy named, Igor. His Russian accent and demeanor unchanged by America and Hollywood. His baton is held upright in preparation for the downbeat and ready to act as a magic wand to correct any wrong notes or imprecise intonation. Its supernatural power will put right any faulty string player or those lagging behind in the horn section.
Above all, this is music as story. A ballet accompaniment, wondrous and tragic. It brings to life not only Petroushka, the Ballerina, and the Moor, but the wildness of the fair, hope, love, and jealousy. At the end, the music ushers in death.
The story aside, the music is thrilling, beautiful, and frightening. I’m transported to the heretofore unknown. My understanding has expanded. My heart has been touched and my ears have been made much larger than before.
P. S. This performance seems to have never been reissued on CD. Not having played it in ages, I was surprised to realize my copy is in monaural. It was always stereo in my head.