Work: Firebird Suite
About This Work
Stravinsky's third concert version of his Firebird ballet was completed in 1945. Stravinsky called this work a "ballet suite," and it is substantially different from its predecessors in a number of ways. Perhaps most significant is the
addition of more music in the third suite: whereas suites one and two each consisted of five movements, the 1945 suite boasts 10, including the original five from the 1919 suite, plus three Pantomimes, a Pas de deux, and a Scherzo. Also notable are the revisions the composer made in both of the later suites: notation, barring, and metrics are altered to facilitate reading Stravinsky's complex rhythms. There are also a number of changes in orchestration, due in part to the reduced orchestra of the later suites (the 1945 suite consists of the same instrumentation as the reduced 1919 suite, with the exception of an added snare drum in the former). This "ballet suite" was Stravinsky's final attempt to make his ballet more palatable: while his suites remained popular for decades after the ballet's appearance early in the century, Stravinsky quickly outgrew the Russian musical idioms that give the work its characteristic sound. The concert suites enabled Stravinsky to extract what he felt were the ballet's salvageable moments, and to censor what musicologist Eric Walter White called the work's "effusiveness [which] must have been increasingly embarrassing to Stravinsky as time went on." The composer himself, after years of attempting to update his ballet, always referred to the work dismissively as "that audience lollipop."
-- Alexander Carpenter
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