Wednesday, 30 November 2016


Stravinsky, left, and his music teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, right.
Christmas will come a tad early this year for maestro Valery Gergiev. 

The esteemed Russian conductor and Mariinsky Theatre Chief announced early last week his intent to re-introduce the works of homegrown iconic composer Igor Stravinsky to Russian audiences, which, by and large, have been starved of the composers work for the better part of a century - a result of a government boycott following the countries’ Communist Revolution in 1917, and an outright ban on performing works by Stravinsky – labeled “degenerate music” - during the second world war which lasted until the early 1960s. According to Gergiev, the Russian nation, since the end of the war, has only produced some 10% of Stravinsky’s works in the form of live productions, prompting the famed conductor to announce that he has thus chosen 2017 to honor the composer by reintroducing his vast repertoire to native audiences.

Gergiev's fellow music loving countrymen will be honored with a preview of what’s to come in the New Year on December 2nd, with a rare performance of Stravinsky’s Pogrebal'naya Pesnya (Funeral Song) – the Russian composer’s tribute to fellow composer and teacher, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov following the latters death from complications of angina in June 1908.

The short work (said to be only 12 minutes long) has only been heard once in 107 years – when it was performed seven months after Korsakov’s death, in January 1909 - and had long since believed to have been destroyed – the unfortunate and destructive byproduct of revolutionary and civil war.

Stravinsky himself is said to have mourned the loss of the work, which immediately preceded his notorious skyrocket to international fame when he premiered his much acclaimed [The] Firebird on the Paris Stage under Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes machine. The composer claimed a faulty memory and a strong desire to “...see what I was composing just before The Firebird.”

Now, a century plus later, the previously internationally-unknown composer will finally get his wish, albeit 45 years too late (Stravinsky died of heart failure in 1971 whilst living in New York). It is all thanks to some persistent Russian musicologists and archivists who bravely kept both word of mouth and search alive for Stravinsky’s lost work, which they believed might have been stored among piles of aging, un-cataloged music in the archives of The St Petersburg Philharmonic or the Conservatoire - even though “rummaging was not encouraged” during the reign of the Soviet Union – particularly for a person their Government considered to be “not a person” at all [see links below - The Guardian]. Their unyielding hutzpah led to one eagle-eyed librarian discovering missing orchestral parts of the score long believed to have been lost forever whilst rummaging through the archives – and lost forever, they may well have been – her find came as a direct result of a 2015 Conservatoire complete overhaul, in which all loose manuscripts were to be re-shelved – with works like Stravinsky’s Funeral Song facing the very real potential of another accidental oversight - once more relegating the composers lost work to yet another bin, to be buried in some dusty, lonely corner of the archives from whence it came.

Be sure to watch the live stream December 2 at 2:00 PM ET, which will be brought to audiences in Russia and around the globe by and Mezzo.

In the meantime, enjoy Gergiev’s impassioned interpretation of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” (‘Finale’):

Read more about this discovery (and the upcoming performance):


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