Notes From The Conductor: The Firebird

What attracted you to The Firebird and why did you choose to open the season with it?

Stravinsky is one of the most revolutionary composers of the 20th century and his evolution through the years is incredible. His first period of composing is defined by three ballet masterpieces (Firebird, Rite of Spring and Petrushka). The Firebird is still very much romantic music and attached to Tchaikovsky’s ballet tradition.

This suite from The Firebird is a colourful piece of music, comprised of miniature movements from the entire ballet. Russian composers are extremely gifted when it comes to describing action and drama through music and that’s why I love this piece so much.

I chose to open the season with it because it’s extremely efficient and powerful music. The very last bars are so impressive.

Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante is one of your favourite pieces, can you talk about the history of the piece (why it was considered unplayable) and why this is your favourite?

I’ve been waiting to conduct Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante for a long time because it is one of my favourite pieces. It’s probably one of the longest cello concertos ever written. Typically concertos are made because of a special relationship between a composer and a soloist. In this case Prokofiev was very fond of Rostropovitch’s playing and he decided to write a concerto for him. It was considered unplayable because Rostropovitch gave a substantial push to make it harder and helped the composer with the technical difficulty of the instrument.

I love this piece because it’s extremely deep and shows a composer at the end of his life who mastered orchestral colours and composing.

Liadov is featured twice in the program, why did you choose to pair the two pieces with Stravinsky’s The Firebird?

Liadov doesn’t have a lot of pieces written because he was teaching at the St. Petersburg conservatory. These two small pieces pair very well with The Firebird because they are both composed from Russian tales and have a fairy tale atmosphere!

Another fun fact – Liadov was originally supposed to compose The Firebird’s music but apparently he was a little lazy so he never began the composition. So Diaghilev went to a very young Russian talent, Stravinsky, who accepted the task!

—Andrei Feher