About this Piece
Composed: 1916-1917, 1921; 1914-1915, 1925
Length: c. 13 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes (2nd = piccolo), oboe, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, bass drum, cymbals, snare drum, piano, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances: February 24, 1934, Otto Klemperer conducting (Suite No. 2); April 7, 1994, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting (Suite No. 1, complete)
These enchanting, gently satirical Suites are orchestrations made by Stravinsky of the eight piano duets — with “easy right hand” and in simple keys, with few accidentals — he had written for his children, Theodore and Mika, the first three in 1914-1915 and then five more in 1917. The right-hand part was created for the children, alternatingly joining their father, who was in charge of the more complex left-hand part.
“I wrote the Polka [Suite No. 2] first,” Stravinsky recalled. “It is a caricature of Diaghilev, whom I had seen as a circus trainer cracking a long whip.” The composer Alfredo Casella was present when Stravinsky played the Polka for Diaghilev, and asked for a piece for himself as well; Stravinsky responded with the Marche. The Valse was written in the style of, and in homage to, Erik Satie. The Española is a souvenir of the composer's trip to Spain in 1916, and the Napolitana (which quotes “Funiculì, funiculà”) is a souvenir of a visit to Naples the following year.
The other movements are an Andante and Balalaïka opening and closing the first Suite, and a Galop to end the second Suite.
— Herbert Glass