Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
Scherzo à 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 à
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