November 10, 2007 7:41 AM   Subscribe

My favorite piece of music is Stravinsky's "Petrouchka." (Scroll down to the 2002-2003 Season for mp3s.) Today, I was blown away by this recording (CD for purchase, alas) of parts of the piece played on accordion. (If you're a Stravinsky fan, please do yourself a favor and acquire this CD!). I've always associated accordions with polkas (and Ennio Morricone music ... and, of course, the Doctor Who theme). I never knew they were rich enough to stand in for a whole orchestra! And I didn't know much about accordions used in classical music. Anyway, back to Petrouchka: here are videos of the ballet: bit, I II, III, IV.
posted by grumblebee (14 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Well, as long as we're just sharing our favorite things this morning, perhaps my favorite living composer is Kalevi Aho. (See the Naxos page, too. They distribute BIS, which has a near monopoly on Aho recordings.) I haven't heard this disc of his accordion music, but it's reviewed on one of the sites you linked to.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:51 AM on November 10, 2007

Those accordion performances are mouth-gapingly amazing. I can't imagine how much talent it takes to play like that.
posted by tepidmonkey at 8:28 AM on November 10, 2007

I saw an awesome acordion player working the line outside the David in florence. he played every request perfectly, from ride of the valkyries to back in black. i will never talk bad about an accordion again.
posted by MNDZ at 9:01 AM on November 10, 2007

It's certainly impressive. Though I am impressed because I know what the orchestral version sounds like and that is colouring my listening experience. I wonder if I had never heard the piece before, how much I would like it. I don't see any advantages of playing it on the accordian (it's not more sensitive or anything) so this is really more of a novelty than profound musical expression.
posted by leibniz at 9:06 AM on November 10, 2007

To me, there are two advantages. The first is that the accordion pushes the piece to have a more "carnival" sound, which fits well with what's already going on. The second ... well ... I can't explain it because it's totally subjective: it just sounds right to me. I've heard it played by full orchestra, piano and now accordion. I like all three interpretations. They're like different singers singing the same song. I probably wouldn't like it played on the tuba or kazoo.
posted by grumblebee at 9:20 AM on November 10, 2007

To me, the "Doctor Who" theme is a stunt. Worth hearing once (if that). I'll listen to the Petrouchka repeatedly. (Before shrugging it off as a stunt, I urge you to listen to the CD version.)
posted by grumblebee at 9:21 AM on November 10, 2007

At the very least, for the arranger, a good transcription cannot be done without a very thorough understanding of the structure of the work and intelligent interpretation of the composer's intentions. In this case, the process was probably greatly abetted by the fact that Stravinsky himself was a fairly diligent transcriber and he prepared piano or piano four hands versions for most of his ballets (including Petrushka Petrouchka петрушка whatever).

It's always questionable whether the aesthetic result at the end justifies the amount of effort expended (in this case, the result, as much as I can hear in the youtube clip, doesn't really excite me) but I'd hesitate to call this merely a stunt, or a purely technical exercise. Particularly with someone like Stravinsky, for whom orchestration is entirely integral to the conception of the piece, you can learn a lot about the work even as a listener by understanding what's gained and lost in this translation.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:33 AM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I kicked off my Satie obsession with Teodoro Anzellotti's accordian performances. To my ears, it's a direct predecessor to post-rock..
posted by unmake at 10:16 AM on November 10, 2007

I saw flight of the bumblebee on the accordion and it was magical.
posted by Autarky at 10:32 AM on November 10, 2007

You forgot about black metal accordion.
posted by boo_radley at 12:10 PM on November 10, 2007

Turisas is "black metal" to about the same extent Stravinsky is.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:30 PM on November 10, 2007

Nothing compares to Giulini's
posted by Opera Chic at 2:17 PM on November 10, 2007

Thanks for this. As an aside, this thread is currently the fifth google result for "Petrouchka."
posted by Grod at 8:52 PM on November 10, 2007

Lenny B's 1969
posted by hortense at 9:20 PM on November 10, 2007

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