Stravinsky's the Firebird

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Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, The Firebird, premiered on June 25, 1910. Stravinsky was just twenty-seven years old at the time. Stravinsky was hired by Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes Company of Paris, France, to compose the ballet. Michel Fokine was in charge of the choreography used in The Firebird. This work is an example of how tradition and innovation can come together to create a piece, which has withstood the test of time. Such aspects as its use of melody, harmony, and rhythm create a sound which is distinctly Russian.
In general, the music follows traditions set by past composers, but at the same time it is able to bring originality. The biggest influences on The Firebird were Russian composers, such as Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Pyotr Ilrich Tchaikovsky. The form of the ballet is where Tchaikovsky’s footprint is most noticeable. The action of the story is pushed forward by the dance sequences, which also serve to tie the piece together.
The melody is reminiscence of Russian folksong through its use of diatonic and modal melodic lines. While The Firebird does use chromaticism throughout, the bulk of the Russian folksong elements are still harmonized diatonically. By doing this, Stravinsky is following the mold already set by nineteenth century composers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov. Stravinsky’s treatment of these Russian folksongs can still be considered more forward-thinking than Rimsky-Korsakov’s despite the influence that Rimsky-Korsakov had on Stravinsky. These diatonically harmonized passages are based on major scales; and thus, are tonal in nature. The aforementioned themes are used to represent the human elements of the ballet, such as the music for Ivan Tsarevich, who is the hero of the story, a...

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Works Cited

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