Stravinsky – The firebird


Last October I wrote about Boulez conducting the firebird suite, this time it is the complete work, also in its 1910 version. The first in a series of very successful ballets that the composer did for impresario Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballet Russes in Paris.

I’ve dances around Diaghilev for some time now. For exporting Russian culture to western Europe he was of enormous importance. He had the ears of many influential nobility and had lovers all over the place. Born in 1872 in the Novgorod Governorate in what was then the Russian Empire, he was interested in theatre and arts from a very early age. His family ran a musical evening every week in a local cultural centre.

Studying at the St. Petersburg Imperial University was filled with distractions for Diaghilev. It took him two years longer “to look around”. Somehow the young socialite found himself always surrounded by the rich and famous of the time. In 1905 he organised an art exhibition in one of the cities palaces, showing more than 4000 pieces. His stardom rose quickly.

A year later he was doing the same in the Grande Palais in Paris. Some years later he decided to stay in Paris, and he never returned to Russia. When the Revolution broke out in his home country, he was called back, but refused. For the next 60 years his name was reviled and he was not allowed back.

It was in these years that his ballets entered musical history. He founded the Ballet Russes as an itinerant dance group that travelled to most western European cities. Dancing on music by the classical Russian composers. Not only Stravinsky, but also Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, Mussorgsky, Ravel, Debussy, Satie, Prokofiev, and so many others.

He was not an easy man to work with though: his demands were high, and there is a touch of misconduct around him. Metoo was not invented yet, but in a way he reminds me a bit of Harvey Weinstein.

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