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MUSICAL STORYTELLING: THE FIREBIRD

Stravinsky’s big break came with The Firebird, his first ballet written for the Parisian company Ballets Russes. With inspiration from Slavic folk tales and music that left no listener indifferent, it put the young composer’s name on everybody’s lips. In the symphonic poem Luonnotar, Sibelius retells the creation myth from the epic Kalevala. An orchestral masterpiece and a display of skill for the soloist.

The concert will be broadcasted live on Berwaldhallen Play and at Swedish Radio P2 November 6 at 7 pm.


SWEDISH RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
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Information about the November concerts

Take part in Berwaldhallen's November concerts on Swedish Radio P2 and with a picture on Berwaldhallen Play. Due to the current stricter restrictions in the Stockholm region, the concerts are played without an audience in the hall.

Participants

 

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is known worldwide as one of Europe’s most versatile orchestras with an exciting and varied repertoire and a constant striving to break new ground The multi-award-winning orchestra has been praised for its exceptional, wide-ranging musicianship as well as collaborations with the world’s foremost composers, conductors and soloists.

Permanent home of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 1979 is Berwaldhallen, the Swedish Radio’s concert hall. In addition to the audience in the hall, the orchestra reaches many many listeners on the radio and the web and through it´s partnership with EBU. Several concerts are also broadcast and streamed on Berwaldhallen Play and with Swedish Television, offering the audience more opportunities to come as close as possible to one of the world’s top orchestras.

“The orchestra has a unique combination of humility, sensibility and musical imagination”, says Daniel Harding, Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2007. “I have never had a concert with the orchestra where they haven’t played as though their lives depended on it!” The orchestra is also proud to have Klaus Mäkelä as its Principal Guest Conductor since 2018.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish Radio Symphony was one of the only orchestras in the world which never stopped playing.  Its innovative and creative approach to making music in these dark times helped its public to cope and even made the news itself.

The first radio orchestra was founded in 1925, the same year that the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra received its current name in 1967. Through the years, the orchestra has had several distinguished Music Directors. Two of them, Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen, have since been appointed Conductors Laureate, as well as Valery Gergiev, a regular guest conductor and co-founder of the Baltic Sea Festival.

Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling has been performing on the world’s leading opera, concert and recital stages for over two decades. Early operatic roles such as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Ilia in Idomeneo, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro and Zerlina in Don Giovanni took Tilling to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Opéra national de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Teatro alla Scala and The Metropolitan Opera. Later roles included the Governess in The Turn of the Screw, Euridice in Orfeo ed Euridice, Donna Clara in Der Zwerg, Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel, l’Ange in Saint François d’Assise, Blanche de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites and Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro and Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande.

Recent concert highlights include as a soloist in Bernard Haitink’s historic final appearance with the Radio Filharmonish Orkest at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Brahms’ Requiem with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Mirga Gražinytė Tyla, Dutilleux’s Correspondances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Mahler’s Symphony No.4 with Orchestre de Paris and Thomas Hengelbrock, Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder with both the Sydney Symphony Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnányi and the London Symphony Orchestra/François-Xavier Roth, and she’s toured extensively in Peter Sellar’s stagings of Bach’s St Matthew Passion and St John Passion with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle. Highlights in the 20/21 season include Brahms’ Requiem with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, a programme of Mahler and Strauss with the Philharmonie Zuidnederland and Mahler’s Symphony No.4 with the Concertgebouworkest.

Programme

Approximate timings

At the beginning of the 1900s, Sergei Diaghilev worked variedly to promote and encourage new and radical Russian culture. This work included establishing the Ballets Russes in Paris, for which the young and still unknown Igor Stravinsky had orchestrated music by Chopin. It wasn’t long before he was commissioned to write new music for a Russian folk tale, which was to become Stravinsky’s big breakthrough.

The first of Stravinsky’s Russian ballets, The Firebird, was dedicated to Andrey Rimsky-Korsakov, a friend of the same age, and son of composer Nikolai, who had been like a second father to Stravinsky, and also taught him orchestration.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s influence can be more than discerned in the background of the music. Not least Stravinsky’s treatment of the orchestra should have garnered appreciation. Stravinsky’s use of musical motifs and structure show clear impressions from his role model. Some of the folk song tunes in The Firebird can also be found in Rimsky-Korsakov’s earlier work.

At night, the radiant firebird dances into the immortal Koschei’s enchanted garden, stalked by Prince Ivan. The prince manages to catch the bird after a duel, but sets it free again in return for a magical feather. In the garden, the prince watches 13 princesses dancing, and falls instantly in love with one of them. He reveals himself and is invited to participate in the princesses’ Khorovod, a Russian folk dance.

When dawn breaks, the princesses disappear into Koschei’s palace. Ivan forces the gate open to free his beloved, but is captured by Koschei’s monstruous subjects. The wizard threatens to turn the prince to stone, but Ivan raises the magical feather in despair, and the firebird comes to his rescue. It forces Koschei and all his subjects to dance an infernal dance to the point of exhaustion, and the egg that hides Koschei’s immortality is broken in pieces. The wizard dies, the spell is broken and the prisoners are freed.

Ann-Marie Nilsson

Approximate concert length: 50 min