The Academy Symphony Orchestra conducted by Oliver Knussen (1952-2018), performs Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite (1945 version). Recorded at The Duke's Hall, Royal Acamedy of Music, London, on January 26, 2018.
Igor Stravinsky's third concert version of his Firebird ballet was completed in 1945. Stravinsky called this work a "ballet suite", and it is substantially different from its predecessors in a number of ways. Perhaps most significant is the addition of more music in the third suite: whereas suites one and two each consisted of five movements, the 1945 suite boasts 10, including the original five from the 1919 suite, plus three Pantomimes, a Pas de deux, and a Scherzo. Also notable are the revisions the composer made in both of the later suites: notation, barring, and metrics are altered to facilitate reading Stravinsky's complex rhythms. There are also a number of changes in orchestration, due in part to the reduced orchestra of the later suites (the 1945 suite consists of the same instrumentation as the reduced 1919 suite, with the exception of an added snare drum in the former). This "ballet suite" was Stravinsky's final attempt to make his ballet more palatable: while his suites remained popular for decades after the ballet's appearance early in the century, Stravinsky quickly outgrew the Russian musical idioms that give the work its characteristic sound. The concert suites enabled Stravinsky to extract what he felt were the ballet's salvageable moments, and to censor what musicologist Eric Walter White called the work's "effusiveness [which] must have been increasingly embarrassing to Stravinsky as time went on". The composer himself, after years of attempting to update his ballet, always referred to the work dismissively as "that audience lollipop".
Source: Alexander Carpenter (allmusic.com)
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
♪ The Firebird Suite (1945)
ii. Prelude and Dance of the Firebird
iii. Variations (Firebird)
iv. Pantomime 1
v. Pas de deux
vi. Pantomime 2
vii. Scherzo: Dance of the princesses
viii. Pantomime 3
x. Infernal dance
xii. Final hymn
Academy Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Oliver Knussen
London, Royal Acamedy of Music, The Duke's Hall, January 26, 2018
Oliver Knussen (June 12, 1952 - July 8, 2018) was one of today's most important composers and conductors. His work includes three symphonies, the instrumental piece "Ophelia Dances" and two hugely successful children's operas – "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Higglety Pigglety Pop!".
He was also one of the world's top conductors and artistic directors, working with ensembles including the London Sinfonietta and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. As a festival director he was highly respected: he was co-artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival from 1983-1998 and head of contemporary music at the Tanglewood Music Center from 1986-1993.
Only last week Knussen was given an honorary doctorate by the Royal Academy of Music, where he was also the Richard Rodney Bennett Professor of Music. In a citation the Academy said: "There is no composer more refined in technique and imagination, no conductor more precise and fastidious, no mentor more generous, and no-one who understands the repertoires of new music better. He is one of the Academy's and nation's greatest cultural treasures".
Oliver Knussen was born in Glasgow in 1952 but grew up in London – his father was principal double bass in the London Symphony Orchestra. He began composing when he was just six and at the age of just 15 the young Knussen stepped in at the last minute to conduct the premiere of his first symphony at the Royal Festival Hall.
He went on to work as the principal guest conductor of The Hague's Het Residentie Orkest in 1992 and became music director for the London Sinfonietta in 1998, a post he held until 2002.
Perhaps his most famous works are the pair of operas he wrote with author Maurice Sendak – "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Higglety Pigglety Pop!".
In 1994 he was awarded a CBE and in 2009 received the Royal Philharmonic Society Conductor Award. In 2012 his 60th birthday was marked with special events in Aldeburgh, Amsterdam, Birmingham, London and Tanglewood.
As a conductor he has made around 60 recordings on labels including Deutsche Grammophone, NMC and Ondine. And in 2015 he was awarded the Queen's Medal for Music.
His wife, Sue Knussen, was a producer of music programmes. She died in 2003 and her husband set up the Sue Knussen Composers Fund to "honour her memory and professional legacy and commission works from emerging composers to be performed by contemporary music ensemble worldwide". The couple had a daughter, Sonya, who is a mezzo-soprano.
Source: Elizabeth Davis, July 9, 2018 (classicfm.com)
Tributes paid to Oliver Knussen, who has died aged 66