Week 7 – The Firebird
Composer: Igor Stravinsky (1882 - 1971)
Title: The Firebird Suite
Genre: Ballet Suite
Background: Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird was first heard in the fashionable city of Paris, the capital of France, in 1910. The music was so good that he became famous overnight! Its story is based on old Russian fairy tales, filled with magic, evil and mythical creatures.
Let’s start by meeting our fearless hero, Prince Ivan. He wanders into the enchanted garden of the nasty Kashchei the Immortal, a monster who doesn’t like to be disturbed! Ivan sees the beautiful and magical Firebird and catches her. But he agrees to let her go if she’ll help him when he’s in trouble. That’s lucky, because Ivan falls in love with a princess and this makes Kashchei really angry. Thankfully, the Firebird comes to the rescue and tells Ivan the secret to destroy Kashchei – and everyone celebrates! Hurray! Stravinsky uses all the instruments in the orchestra he could think of so he could write a colourful and exciting ballet. Some bits are very quiet, like the opening, and other bits are very loud, like the end – the Finale!
The Music Today: As this music comes from a ballet, the music is still used across the globe during performances of The Firebird. Stravinsky wrote many ballets, but this is one of his most famous and popular ballets. Disney has once again used this piece of classical music, this time in the remake of ‘Fantasia 2000’ which you can watch on YouTube here. Music from the entire Firebird Suite was also used for the recent film ‘Rise of the Guardians’ in 2012.
Things to do:
1. How many different instruments play the tune from the start until 1.09? Can you name any of them?
2. Which instrument do you hear for the first time at 2.36?
3. At that point the music gets faster and louder. How does this make you feel? What do you think is happening in the story at that point?
4. Draw a picture of the Firebird. What do you think she would look like?
5. This music comes from a ballet which means dancers dance along to the music. How would you dance to this music? Have a go!
Find the music on YouTube here!