Diaghilev proposed to Stravinsky a ballet adapting Pergolesi (1710-1736) in the spirit of Vincenzo Tommassini’s The Good-Humored Ladies (1917), adapting Domenico Scarlatti. The result was Pulcinella. Stravinsky later wrote: “I had to find an answer to a question of the greatest importance . . . Should my line of action with regard to Pergolesi be dominated by my love or by my respect for his music? Is it love or respect that urges us to possess a woman? Is it not by love alone that we succeed in penetrating to the very essence of a being? But, then, does love diminish respect? Respect alone remains barren, and can never serve as a productive or creative factor.” Retooling his sources (many of which, research has shown, were not composed by Pergolesi), Stravinsky produced one of his wittiest neo-classical confections.
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to Boosey & Hawkes/Joseph Horowitz.
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