A long-lost work by Igor Stravinsky will receive its U.S. premiere in concerts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, led by Charles Dutoit, on April 6-11.
Considered lost for more than a century, Stravinsky’s Funeral Song (Pogrebal’naya Pesnya), Op. 5, was recently reconstructed from orchestral parts found in 2015 at the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory. Stravinsky wrote the work in memory of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, his teacher and mentor, shortly after his death in 1908. Funeral Song, a 12-minute work for symphony orchestra written by the young Stravinsky between his Fireworks and Scherzo Fantastique and the ballet The Firebird, received its the first and only performance on Jan. 17, 1909.
In his 1936 autobiography The Chronicle of My Life, Stravinsky despaired that the score of this work “unfortunately disappeared in Russia during the Revolution.” He fondly recalled Funeral Song: “I can remember the idea at the root of its conception, which was that all the solo instruments of the orchestra filed past the tomb of the master in succession, each laying down its melody as its wreath against a deep background of tremolo murmurings simulating the vibrations of bass voices singing in chorus.”
For the CSO’s April 6-11 subscription concerts, Funeral Song replaces the originally announced Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila, with the rest of the program, Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Truls Mørk as soloist and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, remaining unchanged. On Dec. 2, Funeral Song will receive its first performance in 107 years when the Mariinsky Orchestra, led by Valery Gergiev in St. Petersburg, Russia, revives the reconstructed work. That concert will be filmed for television and streamed live by Medici.tv.
The orchestral parts for Funeral Song were unearthed in spring 2015 by musicologist Natalia Braginskaya and Irina Sidorenko, librarian for the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory, in a back room of the archive, where volumes of manuscripts had been rendered inaccessible for decades. Braginskaya describes Funeral Song “as a mingling of post-Wagnerian chromaticism with the harmonies of Rimsky-Korsakov.” The score begins “a line of musical commemoration by Stravinsky, through the Symphonies of Wind Instruments in memory of Debussy, leading up to the numerous later in memoriam works.”
Boosey & Hawkes, Stravinsky’s principal publisher, is preparing the full score for publication and will be making Funeral Song available for additional performances.