Hosted by: Stephen Peithman

Exploring links between concepts, themes and people in classical music, from medieval to modern

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Saturday, August 3, 2013 Permalink

The Firebird Connection

Detail from a 19th century Russian lacquer box


Long before Igor Stravinsky’s celebrated ballet of 1910, the Firebird legend had for years haunted Russian art and music as a figure of irrepressible and unattainable beauty.

In fact, Stravinsky’s teacher, the composer Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, wrote of a failed attempt in the 1860s by his own teacher, Mily Balakirev, to produce a musical treatment of the Firebird legend--a work now lost.

Well, not quite….

In this hour, how Balakirev used his unfinished Firebird as the basis for a new work that would chart a different direction for Russian music — one that would inspire Rimsky-Korsakov and others — and a half century later, launch Stravinsky’s amazing five-decade career.