Stravinsky: Petrushka, ballet in four tableaux (1911); Jeu de cartes, “ballet in three deals” (1936)

Reviewed on Mon 07 Jan, 2019

Jeu de cartes is neoclassically tonal, crisp, bouncy, and full of staccato wit, with palpable jokes stolen from Rossini and others, and orchestrated with impeccable precision and clarity.

This lively rendition of the 1911 Petrushka is a convincing endorsement of the great story ballet, composed just one year after Firebird, that for musical reasons alone represents a more radical originality than does The Rite of Spring. Petrushka is full of Russian folktunes, Mardi Gras spirit, fascinating rhythms, puppet theater, and poignant drama, as well as a bold orchestral sense that many prefer to Stravinsky’s more tempered 1947 re-orchestration. Jeu de cartes, “ballet in three deals” from 1936, is less well known, the last work in the ballet genre that Stravinsky completed before departing for America. It is neoclassically tonal, crisp, bouncy, and full of staccato wit, with palpable jokes stolen from Rossini and others, and orchestrated with impeccable precision and clarity. The performance, expertly led by Valery Gergiev, does special credit to the orchestra that Stravinsky heard every day in his youth in Russia and from which he learned his trade.
–Mark DeVoto