Skip to page content

FastNotes

  • In September 1919, Sergei Diaghilev brought to Stravinsky the idea of a new ballet based on music by the Neapolitan Baroque composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. The result – with designs by Picasso and choreography by Massine – was a huge success for the Ballets Russes the following year.
  • Stravinsky recycled his sparkling, witty transfigurations in several forms, including a version for violin and piano (with the aid of violinist Samuel Dushkin) in 1933.

In September 1919, Sergei Diaghilev brought to Stravinsky the idea of a new ballet based on music by the Neapolitan Baroque composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. (Diaghilev had already staged ballet adaptations of keyboard works by Scarlatti and Rossini.) Stravinsky took the concept farther than Diaghilev could have imagined, inaugurating his neoclassical period and making sheer style a central compositional issue, but the result – with designs by Picasso and choreography by Massine – was a huge success for the impresario and his Ballets Russes in Paris the following year.

Stravinsky recycled his sparkling, witty transfigurations in several forms: a concert suite for chamber orchestra in 1922, and a “Suite for Violin and Piano after Themes, Fragments, and Pieces by Pergolesi” in 1925, which he reworked into a Suite Italienne for cello and piano (with the help of cellist Gregor Piatigorsky) in 1932, followed by a version for violin and piano (with the aid of violinist Samuel Dushkin) in 1933.

Though it was not known at the time to either Diaghilev or Stravinsky, not all of the music attributed to Pergolesi was actually by that short-lived but very popular master. Of the pieces in the Suite Italienne, the Introduzione, Tarantella, and Finale were originally by Domenico Gallo and the Gavotta with its two variations was by Carlo Monza; both were contemporaries of Pergolesi.