Stravinsky - the Firebird Suite: an Analysis Essay

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The Firebird Suite (1910; version from 1919)

Introduction - The Firebird and its Dance
Round of the Princesses (Khorovod)
Infernal Dance of King Kaschei

The first of Igor Stravinsky's three famous early ballets, The Firebird is the most traditional and derivative. While The Firebird, similar to Petrushka and The Rite Of Spring, is unquestionably one of Stravinsky's masterpieces, if considered strictly historically it can be, with some justice, viewed as warmed-over Rimsky-Korsakov (the device of contrasting a folkloristic, diatonic style representing human characters, with a highly chromatic style reserved for depicting the supernatural had its most conspicuous use in Rimsky's
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The magician-king tries to lull Ivan into unconsciousness with a bewitching lullaby (Berceuse), but Ivan protects himself with the magic of the Firebird's feather. The Firebird suddenly appears and distracts Kaschei's monsters by dancing wildly among them (Finale). The Firebird reveals to Ivan the secret of Kaschei's immortality: an egg that contains Kaschei's soul. Ivan smashes the egg. Kaschei immediately dies, and with him all of his enchantments. The ballet closes with triumphant rejoicing by the prince and his princess.

The sections of the 1919 Suite version:
Stravinsky was happy with his music for the Introduction, at least from a structural point of view, since its chains of alternating thirds and seconds and the prominent tritone link it with later scenes where there is a strong supernatural element such as the Infernal dance. For the supernatural characters--the Firebird, and Kaschei and his gang--Stravinsky created non-diatonic melodies based dissonant intervals such as the tritone. Here, on muted lower strings, the alternating thirds and seconds are strongly evocative of the atmosphere of King Kaschei's enchanted garden, where the Firebird comes to feed on the golden fruits growing on silver trees. Stravinsky was also proud of the magical sound of glissando harmonics, which was a new effect for strings in its day.
The next section, The Firebird and its Dance, is a brilliantly detailed study in orchestration,