Stravinsky‘s Suite italienne for violin and piano is an arrangement of several movements from his Pergolesi ballet Pulcinella (1919 – 1920). In Pulcinella, Stravinsky had taken works by the early eighteenth-century Italian composer Giambattista Pergolesi and effectively rewritten them by cutting, altering, and transforming the music into his own style. The result was, in Stravinsky’s words, “the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible.” Pulcinella was, in other words, Stravinsky’s first work in which style in and of itself was the primary compositional determinant.
The Suite italienne was not Stravinsky’s first attempt to transform some of the numbers from the ballet into a work for violin and piano. In 1925, he wrote a Suite for violin and piano, after themes, fragments, and pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi. In 1932, Stravinsky enlisted the aid of cellist Gregor Piatigorsky to rework the earlier Suite into the Suite italienne for cello and piano. In 1932, Stravinsky and violinist Samuel Dushkin arranged the cello-and-piano Suite Italienne into the violin-and-piano Suite italienne. In this version, the order of movements is “Introductione,” “Serenata,” “Tarantella,” “Gavotta con due variazioni,” “Scherzino,” and “Minuetto e finale.”
The charm of Pergolesi’s melodies and the piquant flavor of Stravinsky’s rewriting makes his Suite italienne one of his most enjoyable works and certainly the most popular of his works for violin and piano. James Leonard, Rovi