The Firebird and Petrushka

Gorge on Stravinsky’s music two of his most beloved works – at the same concert. After his breakthrough with The Firebird, his first commission from Sergei Diaghilev’s ballet company in Paris, Stravinsky wanted to write concert music for a change. But when Diaghilev heard an early draft of the music, he convinced Stravinsky to turn Petrushka into a ballet instead. In addition, you can enjoy the music from Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairytale opera, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, about the estranged Tsaritsa and her son who are saved by a swan princess. An enchanting concert with the orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre and its chief conductor Valery Gergiev.

1902, the same year in which Igor Stravinsky’s father died of cancer, twenty-year-old Igor had spent the summer with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and his family in Heidelberg in southwest Germany. No doubt Rimsky-Korsakov, then 58 years of age and one of Russia’s foremost composers, made a strong impression on the young Igor, as they continued to stay in regular contact. Igor was advised against studying at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory as he was considered too old and was encouraged to take private lessons instead. During the final three years of Rimsky-Korsakov’s life, he and Igor met twice a week and developed a close father-son relationship.

In young Stravinsky’s music, the influence of his role-model and mentor is noticeable, not least in his use of the orchestra. The originals, inspired by various folk tales and legends, also have the two composers in common. Later in life, Stravinsky was looking for inspiration elsewhere, but his early work, often called the Russian period, is characterized by Rimsky-Korsakov’s influence. Very little time passed between the writing of the ballets, The Firebird and Petrushka, but it was still enough time for him to change, and music researcher Richard Taruskin describes it as “Stravinsky finally becoming Stravinsky”.

The Firebird was Stravinsky’s real breakthrough as a composer, and was so popular the he wrote several shorter suites appropriate for a concert programme. In this concert, we will hear Stravinsky’s Concert Suite for Orchestra No. 2 from 1919. A concert suite from Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tale of Tsar Saltan is presented, which portrays three important scenes from the opera: The Tsar bids his court farewell before going to war; The estranged former Tsaritsa and her child at sea in a barrel; Tsar Saltan witnesses three miracles accompanied by his son Gvidon and the magic Princess-Swan.

Stravinsky’s father Fyodor was a well-known opera singer at both the Kiev Opera House and the illustrious Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, where he worked for 26 years. Since 1978, this world-renowned theatre has been home to conductor Valery Gergiev who also became its artistic director in the 1990s. Gergiev is one of the co-founders of the Baltic Sea Festival and sits on the festival’s Artistic Committee together with Esa-Pekka Salonen and Michael Tydén. Every year since its inception in 2003, he has come to Berwaldhallen, frequently with the wealth of Russian music at the ready. On the one hand, the mature Rimsky-Korsakov and the young Stravinsky represented the peak of Russian national romanticism and on the other its breaking point, when the idioms of the 20th century made themselves felt in earnest.



The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra is one of Russia’s oldest, with a history that can be traced back more than two hundred years. Under Czech composer and conductor Eduard Nápravník, the orchestra flourished and reached a level of international renown. Among the high points of that era were productions of Wagner’s The Valkyrie andTannhäuser, as well as Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. In 1978, the Mariinsky Theatre hired Valery Gergiev as its conductor and in 1996, he became the artistic director as well. Besides the great Russian operas by the likes of Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky, their repertoire also includes all the great symphonies, as well as contemporary works by composers such as Giya Kancheli, Nikolai Karetnikov and Sofia Gubaidulina.

Valery Gergiev has been a conductor at the Mariinsky Theatre since 1978. He was appointed chief conductor and artistic director for the theatre orchestra in 1988, and in 1996, he became the artistic director for the entire theatre. Between 1995 and 2008, Gergiev was the principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and since 2015, he has been the chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. Gergiev has received international awards for his artistic achievements and in 2006, he received the Polar Music Prize for his ability to develop and highlight the importance of art music in our time. Gergiev is one of the co-founders of the Baltic Sea Festival and has been a member of its Artistic Committee since its inception.

Concert length: 1 h 55 min incl. intermission

No bus to Berwaldhallen from Stockholm City –
Busline 69 is shortened and runs Karlaplan – Kaknästornet / Blockhusudden. For more information, please visit

FESTIVAL OFFER (Östersjöklippet)
With the Baltic Sea Festival Offer (Östersjöklippet), you get three different levels at a discount – 10, 15 and 20% off the regular fare depending on whether you buy three, four or five different concerts at the same time.

Here you can see the entire festival program