Igor Stravinsky

Chant du rossignol (Song of the Nightingale), symphonic poem for orchestra

    Description by James Leonard

    Le chant du rossignol is the symphonic poem Stravinsky extracted from his opera based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen, Le rossignol (The Nightingale) (1914). Stravinsky began composing Le rossignol in early 1908 while he was still a composition pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, and the first act of the opera was substantially completed by 1909. But the commission that led to the composition of L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird) (1910), Petrushka (1911), and then Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) (1913) delayed the composition of the second and third acts until 1914. By that time Stravinsky's style had changed nearly beyond recognition, and although Stravinsky tried to recover the thread of the composition, the music of the latter two acts of Le rossignol is different and far more harmonically advanced than the music from the first act.

    In 1919, Stravinsky reconsidered the opera and decided to transform the musically homogenous second and third acts into a three-part symphonic poem. In order to facilitate this structural transformation, he dropped some portions of the opera's score and repeated others to achieve a symphonically balanced form. Stravinsky divided the music of the two acts into three unequal parts: the shorter "The Feast in the Emperor of China's Palace" and "The Two Nightingales," and the much longer "Illness and Recovery of the Emperor of China," with its substantial epilogue in the form of a funeral march. And in order to adjust the work to an ensemble without voices, he transferred the lines of the live Nightingale and the mechanical Nightingale to the solo flute and the solo violin. The greater ranges of these instruments in turn allowed him to expand and extend the accompaniment's textures so that they become more open and spacious.

    The result is is neither a true symphonic poem -- it's still far too loosely constructed for that -- nor a suite from the opera -- it's far too exclusive for that. Le chant du rossignol is a gorgeously colored, melodically extravagant, and harmonically adventurous work that sounds unlike anything else Stravinsky had ever written and anything else he was ever to compose.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Presto, The fete in the emperor of China's palace
    2. Chinese March
    3. The Song of the Nightingale, The two nightingales
    4. The Mechanical Nightingale, Illness and recovery of the emperor of China

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Praga PRD 250332
    2015 Sony Classical 88875026162
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon / DG Deutsche Grammophon 4794306
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon 002894794261
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon B002398272
    2014 Analogue Productions / RCA Victor CAPC 2150 SA
    2013 Brussels Philharmonic Recordings BPR 004
    2012 Decca / Mercury Living Presence 001653302
    2012 Broken Audio BRAU 0439
    2012 Naxos 8571222
    2011 Accentus ACC30230
    2011 Oehms Classics OC 406
    2011 Decca 4783028
    2011 Decca
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon 001660502
    2010 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 88697700362
    2010 Newton Classics 8802013
    2010 Decca 4176192
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca
    2009 Haenssler 93234
    2008 RCO Live 08005
    2007 Sony Classical Essential Classics 103112
    2007 Berlin Classics 0012692BC
    2006 Edel Classics 0002332
    2006 Harmonia Mundi 911918
    2006 Glossa 922201
    2005 RCO Live 05001
    2005 RCA Red Seal 66377
    2005 JVC Compact Discs 24026
    2005 Apex 4620882
    2005 Delos 3051
    2004 Mercury 000215036
    2003 Berlin Classics 0020442
    2003 Testament 1306
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 75094
    2002 Disky 70743
    2002 Decca 467818
    2002 Decca
    2001 Rca Red Seal 846092
    2000 London 57127
    2000 Chandos 9240
    2000 Urania 155
    1999 Chandos 8967
    1997 Delos DE3702
    1997 DG Deutsche Grammophon 449769
    1996 Reference Recordings 70
    1996 RCA 68168
    1995 Erato 98955
    1994 Chandos 9238
    1992 Erato 45382
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 46290
    1991 Mercury 432012
    New York Philharmonic NYP2003
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 471197
    D Classics 707512
    Rca Red Seal 5733
    Sony Music Distribution 46302
    Cetra 3008
    Virgin 562022
    Decca 4140782
    Chandos 6654