Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


Stravinsky’s “Funeral Song”, Lost for 107 Years, To Be Performed

Cover of Stravinsky's

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 (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.


  2., Возвращение Погребальная песни Игора Стравинского [The Return of Igor Stravinsky’s Funeral Song]
  3. and [with English subtitles]
  4. and [with English subtitles].


Free Live Concert Webcast: Stravinsky, Sibelius, Kuusisto

On Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 3PM EDT (GMT -5) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Hannu Lintu will perform the divertimento from Stravinsky’s one-act ballet, The Fairy’s Kiss,” and Sibelius’s Second Symphony.  The program will also include the DSO debut of Jaakko Kuusisto’s Violin Concerto, which will feature violinist Elina Vähälä.

An hour before the concert starts there will be an informal interview with composer Jaakko Kuusisto, who is also a conductor and an award-winning violinist.  He plays a 1702 Matteo Goffriller.2  Elina Vähälä plays a 1780 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini.5  You’re welcome, violinists!

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon–don’t miss it!  You can see the concert at


  2. Karlson, Anu, The two lives of Jaakko Kuusisto, Finnish Musical Quarterly, 2/1997.

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Detroit Rach City: Free DSO Rachmaninoff/Stravinsky Webcast

On April 16, 2016 at 8 PM EDT (GMT-4) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free live webcast, titled “Ravishing Rachmaninoff.”

The program will include Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 1, featuring French pianist Lise de la Salle, and conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero of the Nashville Symphony.  Also on the program is Stravinsky’s Petrushka, and the world premiere of Something for the Dark by Sarah Kirkland Snider, a winner of the DSO’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award for female composers.

You can see the webcast at

PS For those who didn’t recognize it, the title is a play on the song Detroit Rock City by the rock group Kiss.  You now know how old I am.  Rach on!


Haiku Wednesday – Carlo Gesualdo

Carlo Gesualdo“Mr Gesualdo,

How do you plead to murder

Of wife and lover?”

“Guilty, your honor.”

“And to chromaticism

And strange harmony?”

“Guilty as well, sir.

May I be remembered for

All I have done here.”

And so it was.  Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613) is remembered for both the salacious events of his life and for the strange beauty of his music.  For those interested in the lurid details, I leave you to your own devices.  I’m trying to keep it PG here.  By the way, the above exchange never would have occurred because, as nobility (he was Prince of Venosa), he was exempt from prosecution.

Gesualdo is known for his secular and sacred music.  He wrote six books of madrigals, and the later books show greater and greater experimentation with chromaticism.

Here is a Gesualdo madrigal, Moro, lasso, al mio duolo

His most well-known sacred work is the Tenebrae Responsoria, which is lavish in its use of chromaticism, unusual harmonies, and abrupt shifts in tempo.

From the Tenebrae Responsoria, O vos omnes

The level of chromaticism used in Gesualdo’s work was very unusual at the time, and was not used to that great an extent until modern times.  Stravinsky was especially taken with his work, and wrote Monumentum pro Gesualdo, which incorporates an arrangement of one of Gesualdo’s madrigals (Belta, poi che t’assenti).

A theme used in Stravinsky’s Monumentum, Gesualdo’s Belta, poi che t’assenti

And in Stravinsky Monumentum

I leave you with this sweet confection from Gesualdo:  Ave dulcissima Maria