One of a handful of Stravinsky's early compositions with an opus number, Fireworks (1908) is perhaps most significant for its role in propelling the composer toward fame. Indeed, it was this work that caught the attention of the members of the Ballets Russes and led to the composition of the first of Stravinsky's epochal ballets, The Firebird (1910).
Fireworks is a short, brilliant showpiece for orchestra composed in just six weeks in late spring 1908. The work is notable for its juxtaposition of chromatic color and diatonic themes, a feature that suggests Stravinsky's debt to turn-of-the-century Russian symphonic style. In fact, Stravinsky composed Fireworks with the intention of showing to it Rimsky-Korsakov, his teacher and mentor, who died before Stravinsky could present the work to him.
While Stravinsky's early works are somewhat rigid and derivative, Fireworks is a harbinger of his compositional maturity. Among the more notable features are the masterful instrumental effects, which presage the virtuoso orchestration of The Firebird. The metric asymmetry and unpredictability that became a hallmarks of Stravinsky's music are present in the irregular barring, providing contrast to the regularity of the composer's earlier works. Foreshadowing another characteristic of his later style, Stravinsky develops the opening theme through the use of fugue and canon.