'Berceuse' from Stravinsky's Firebird


The Firebird (Zhar’ptitsa, or L’Oiseau de Feu) is the work that made Stravinsky famous and remains one of his most popular compositions.

It was commissioned by Sergey Diaghilev, who wanted a ballet for the second Paris season of his Ballets Russes company in 1910. The choreography and scenario – based on the Russian fairy tale by the same name – were by Mikhail Fokine and the designs were by Léon Bakst and Alexander Golovine.

Diaghilev originally approached the Russian composer Anatoly Lyadov (1855–1914) to compose the music for the ballet, but in the end commissioned the twenty-seven-year-old Stravinsky in December 1909, allowing him less than six months to complete the score.

The Firebird was first performed at the Paris Opéra on 25 June 1910 and was an instant success, with a reviewer describing it as ‘the most exquisite marvel of equilibrium that we have ever imagined between sounds, movement and forms’. It also marked the beginning of Stravinsky’s successful collaboration with Diaghilev, which would continue with the production of the ballets Petrushka and The Rite of Spring.

The influence of Stravinsky’s teacher Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov is especially apparent in the The Firebird’s orchestration, which was widely praised. 

This album-leaf in Stravinsky’s hand contains the opening bars from the ‘Berceuse’ (The Firebird’s Lullaby) and is signed and dated 2 December 1910.

Full title:
Igor Stravinsky: Firebird. Album-leaf quotation from ‘Berceuse’.
Igor Stravinsky
© Schott
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Zweig MS 93

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