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Scherzo la Russe

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Scherzo la Russe

Having made his home in Hollywood, Stravinsky was naturally invited from time to time to compose film music. When a proposed 1943 war film with a Russian setting came to nothing, he was reluctant to waste the few dozen pages of music he had sketched for it, so he salvaged as much as he could by rewriting it as Scherzo la Russe for the Paul Whiteman Band. That symphonic jazz version was given its first performance on the Blue Network Programme in 1944. In the same year Stravinsky completed the version for full orchestra. This was introduced by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under his direction in March 1946.

This loud and lively four-minute piece inevitably brings to mind the Russian Dance in Petrushka. The scherzo is built on a G major theme in four-bar phrases. The first of two trio sections is a canon in B for piano and harp with muted violin accompaniment, the second is a miniature A-B-A passage in C and E flat.

Eric Mason

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