Sample 13 Mark Answer – Sinfonia (Pulcinella)

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Explain how the Sinfonia in Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite is a fusion of eighteenth and twentieth century musical styles (13 marks)

Stravinsky’s Sinfonia (from the Pulcinella Suite) is a neo-Classical work, based on an 18th Century trio sonata by Gallo. As such, it retains many of the features of the Baroque period – however, Stravinsky adds a number of features more typical of the 20th Century.

The instrumentation of the piece is reminiscent of the kind of chamber orchestra which might have been seen in a Baroque concerto grosso (with a solo string quintet acting as the concertino group), although there is no continuo. However, while the ensemble itself is typical of an 18th Century piece, Stravinsky’s use of the instruments is more modern in style. For example, some of the lower instruments use an unusually high tessitura in places (such as the first bassoon in bars 16-17 and the solo cello in bar 6). Additionally, there is double and triple stopping in the violins in bars 1-4, and Stravinsky includes a number of specific string articulations which a Baroque composer would not have (such as the sub. meno a leggiero in bar 31).

The harmony and tonality of the piece also demonstrates its fusion style – for example, the tonality is simple and modulates to related keys (beginning in G major, it modulates to the dominant – D major – in bar 4. There is also a modulation to E minor at bar 21), which is typical of an 18th Century work, but Stravinsky modernises Gallo’s harmony through the use of added note dissonances, for example, the G in the final perfect cadence of the piece (which weakens it somewhat).

The piece also uses a typical 18th Century structure (rounded binary form), although this is also modified by Stravinsky – for example, he frequently adds extra rests not present in the original, and in bars 11-12 he briefly switches to 2/4, and then 3/4 time.


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