Stravinsky’s Funeral Song, long thought to be lost, has been found, and will be performed for the first time in 107 years on December 2, 2016.
Stravinsky wrote Funeral Song in 1908 as a tribute after the death of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov. It was last performed in January 1909, with Felix Blumenfeld conducting. The piece was never published, and was considered lost in the chaos and upheaval of the Russian Revolution. Stravinsky said that Funeral Song was the best thing he had ever written before The Firebird, but, unfortunately, he could not remember the music to reconstruct it. In memoirs written in 1935 Stravinsky said,
I no longer remember the music, but I recall very well my idea for the work. It was like a procession of all the soli instruments of the orchestra, coming in turns to each leave a melody in the form of a wreath on the master’s tomb, all the while with a low background of murmuring tremolos, like the vibrations of bass voices singing in a choir.
Various attempts had been made over the years to find the piece, all in vain. However, during building repairs at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, after removing pianos and tons of scores from a music library, a small, previously inaccessible storage area was uncovered. Chillingly, the music was supposed to have been destroyed. Luckily, librarian Irina Sidorenko called musicologist Natalia Braginskaya, a Stravinsky expert who had been seeking the work at the conservatory, to tell her Funeral Song had been found.
In all, 58 orchestral parts of the 106-measure piece, which is in A minor and marked with a tempo of Largo assai, were found. Braginskaya and a team of experts at the conservatory worked to reconstruct the full orchestral score of the piece, which will be published by Boosey and Hawkes. It is stated that the piece is marked by a romantic style uncharacteristic of later Stravinsky works, although some of the harmony and instrumentation is reminiscent of The Firebird.
Funeral Song will be performed on December 2, 2016 at 2PM by the Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev. A live webcast of the performance of Funeral Song may be seen on Medici.tv (see link for details).
For a glimpse of the score, here is a link to a Russian-language video about the discovery. English subtitles are provided. The score may be seen beginning at time stamp 5:45.
- http://conservatory.ru/node/4043, Возвращение Погребальная песни Игора Стравинского [The Return of Igor Stravinsky’s Funeral Song]
- https://mariinsky.tv/1066 and https://youtu.be/fB6Cj-m_pMY [with English subtitles]
- https://mariinsky.tv/1067 and https://youtu.be/lPyZODmsxCI [with English subtitles].