IGOR STRAVINSKY (1882–1971)
The Firebird (1910)
The Firebird, Stravinsky’s first ballet, catapulted the young composer to spectacular international fame. The score’s vibrant colors glitter and pulse with fantastic effects, from primitive to luminous, created by a “wastefully large orchestra” (so said Stravinsky later). The ballet’s exotic scenario overflows with the stuff of legends: a prince, 13 princesses, the Firebird’s magic feather, and the enchanted garden of the evil ogre Kastchei and his malevolent minions. The sound world Stravinsky created is a masterful combination of inspiration from his musical “godfathers” (Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov) and utterly original, daring inventions, such as shifting accents, repeated patterns of melodies and rhythms, and bold orchestral colors. Among the many familiar memorable passages — most of them known from one of the suites the composer created — are the lustrous dance of the Firebird herself, the menacing dance of Kastchei and his band of evil-doers, and the Lullaby and Finale, a spectacular, shimmering climax proclaiming that the prince and princess will live happily ever after.