Igor Stravinsky

L'oiseau de feu (The Firebird), concert suite for orchestra No. 2

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    Stravinsky composed The Firebird (L'Oiseau de feu) in 1909 - 1910 for the Ballets Russes, which introduced it at Paris on June 25, 1910. Sergey Diaghilev, founder and guiding genius of the Ballets Russes, which took Paris by storm in 1909, remained a catalytic force until his death 20 years later. The scion of St. Petersburg gentry, he recruited dancer-choreographer Mikhail Fokine to "liberate" Russian ballet from inherited French conventions and purely decorative dancing. Later on, by sponsoring other, younger choreographers, and by commissioning cutting-edge composers, painters, and scenarists, he revolutionized the ballet worldwide. After the first Paris season, Diaghilev asked for a new work based on the fable of a fiery bird and a wicked sorcerer. Since Rimsky-Korsakov, his first choice of composer, had recently died, he commissioned a pupil, Anatol Lyadov. The latter, gifted but dilatory, had only purchased music paper by deadline. Thus, the score was assigned to another, younger Rimsky pupil, whose Scherzo fantastique and Fireworks Diaghilev had heard at a St. Petersburg concert. If Igor Stravinsky at 27 had been slow to develop, he was ready for Destiny's kiss.

    In November 1909, to a scenario by Fokine, he began composing the work that premiered in June 1910 with glittering success. Aleksandr Golovin designed scenery, Leonid Bakst the costumes. Gabriel Pierné conducted a huge orchestra with quadrupled winds et al. When the storied Anna Pavlova couldn't master Stravinsky's intricate rhythms, Tamara Karsavina replaced her in the title role. Fokine himself danced Prince Ivan, who captures the Firebird while hunting in the garden of evil sorcerer Katschei. When he frees her, she gives him a magic feather, whereupon 13 princesses appear, prisoners of the sorcerer. Ivan falls in love with the prettiest, who begs him to leave -- Katschei literally petrifies any who trespass. When the latter materializes (an sfff blast by the full orchestra), Ivan uses the feather to summon Firebird. She dances the sorcerer and his retinue to sleep, enabling Ivan to destroy them, break the spell, and claim his princess.

    Stravinsky extracted three concert suites. The first one used original orchestration and ended with Katschei's "Infernal Dance." A second one, in 1919, created in Switzerland for conductor Ernest Ansermet, for standard-size orchestra -- still the most popular -- has the "Infernal Dance" midway, followed by "Lullaby" and the original finale. In 1946, Stravinsky fashioned a third suite with additional materials from the ballet, to renew his copyright, but it never caught on.

    The 1919 suite begins with the Firebird's capture. "Khorovod" follows -- a round-dance by the princesses -- then Katschei's arrival and wild dance. Firebird's seduction of him in "Berceuse" sets up the sonorous, pageant-like final tableau.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Introduction
    2. The Firebird and its dance
    3. Variation of the Firebird
    4. The princesses' khorovod
    5. Infernal dance of King Kaschei
    6. Lullaby
    7. Finale

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2019
    Capriccio Records
    C 5352
    2019
    NKB Record
    NBK 203
    2019
    Recursive Classics
    RC 2061415
    2018
    Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    4798418
    2018
    Oehms Classics
    OC 464
    2018
    LPO
    LPO 0105
    2018
    Recursive Classics
    RC 2058479
    2017
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 16026
    2016
    Recursive Classics
    RC 2057008
    2016
    Pentatone / PentaTone Classics
    PTC 5186556
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4795553
    2016
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4796018
    2015
    Music & Arts
    MACD 1287
    2015
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4794306
    2015
    Radio France
    FRF 02027
    2014
    Orfeo
    C 892141B
    2014
    Sony Classical
    88843014642
    2014
    Warner Classics
    2564628807
    2013
    Warner Classics
    4317522
    2013
    Naïve
    V 5192
    2012
    Various Artists
    Naxos
    8501055
    2012
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2012
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4783375
    2012
    TYX Art
    TXA 12004
    2012
    Entertainment Group
    107372
    2012
    Channel Classics
    CCSSA 32112
    2012
    Concerto / Zebralution
    2011
    Altissimo
    ALT 63492
    2010
    BD Jazz / Zebralution
    2010
    BR Klassik
    900706
    2010
    Urania
    121104
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2008
    Musicaphon
    56908
    2008
    RCO / RCO Live
    08002
    2008
    Music & Arts
    MACD1213
    2008
    Various Artists
    EMI Music Distribution / Virgin Classics
    509995027322
    2007
    LPO
    98
    2007
    Arbiter
    153
    2007
    Arts Archives
    43055
    2007
    Music & Arts
    1198
    2007
    Decca
    2007
    Deutsche Grammophon
    0009772
    2006
    Walt Disney
    2005
    Erato
    2005
    Perlowin Music
    0362
    2005
    Orfeo
    266921
    2005
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000532002
    2005
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2005
    Berlin Classics
    0010972
    2005
    Weitblick
    23
    2005
    Liquid 8
    12256
    2004
    Music & Arts
    1146
    2004
    RCA / BMG / RCA Red Seal
    BVCC-37407
    2004
    Document
    221905
    2004
    Sony Classical
    93080
    2004
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    7243585974
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    75462
    2003
    Various Artists
    Madacy
    4791
    2003
    Philips
    000150902
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    75956
    2003
    London
    443898
    2003
    AIX Entertainment
    1339
    2003
    Telarc Distribution
    CD80587
    2003
    Telarc Distribution
    60587
    2003
    Various Artists
    History
    45515
    2002
    Disney
    0927445152
    2001
    Angel Records
    561901-2
    2001
    Mark Custom Recording
    3634
    2001
    History
    203295
    2001
    Sony Music Distribution
    89415
    2001
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    469205
    2001
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2001
    Gmn.com
    101
    2001
    Forlane
    37
    2001
    Telarc Distribution
    60039
    2001
    Delos
    3278
    2001
    Tahra
    363/365
    2000
    Dutton Laboratories
    9700
    2000
    Deutsche Grammophon
    445141
    2000
    Vox
    7804
    2000
    Q Disc
    97015
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    445139
    1999
    Walt Disney / Disney
    860986
    1999
    Walt Disney / Disney
    860986
    1999
    Walt Disney
    #860 986
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    447398
    1999
    History
    203290
    1999
    Pearl
    9031
    1999
    Madacy
    4779
    1998
    Preiser Records
    90311
    1998
    Sony Music Distribution
    SMK-60694
    1998
    Naxos
    554060
    1997
    Biddulph Recordings
    005
    1997
    Dutton Vocalion
    8002
    1997
    Leningrad Masters
    1313
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453 085-2GTA2
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1996
    Deutsche Grammophon
    447414
    1996
    Reference Recordings
    70
    1996
    Cala Records
    505
    1996
    Intersound
    866
    1996
    Virgin
    561322-2
    1995
    Various Artists
    Madacy
    8703
    1995
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1995
    Deutsche Grammophon
    445 538-2GMA2
    1995
    Orfeo
    44831
    1994
    EMI Music Distribution
    65207
    1994
    BIS
    188
    1994
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4378182
    1993
    RCA
    61557
    1992
    Vox
    3016
    1992
    Naxos
    550263
    1992
    Sony Music Distribution
    74664
    1991
    RCA
    GD 60578
    1991
    Telarc Distribution
    80270
    1991
    Sony Music Distribution
    45935
    1991
    RCA
    60541
    1990
    Deutsche Grammophon
    431045
    1990
    Telarc Distribution
    80039
    1987
    Deutsche Grammophon
    415854
    History
    204558
    Deutsche Grammophon
    437000
    Datum
    12306
    RCA Victor
    7929
    RCA
    60578
    Decca
    97015
    Document
    221910
    Various Artists
    All Russia
    EMI Music Distribution
    47099
    Koch International Classics
    7146
    Decca
    4757798
    Acum
    7001810
    Fonit-Cetra Italia
    136
    EMI Music Distribution
    69116
    ICONE
    9401
    Cetra
    2008
    Russian Revelation
    10035
    CBS Records
    37221
    RCA
    60394
    6w
    66
    Fonit-Cetra Italia
    2056
    Hungaroton
    31095
    Sony Music Distribution
    47664
    IMP Classics
    1045
    Pro-Arte Records
    933
    Sony Music Distribution
    47605
    Sheffield Lab
    10052