"The best of my works before The Firebird": this was how Stravinsky remembered Funeral Song. The precious work—106 measures of music lost for 106 years—is brought to life for the first time in 2016 since its creation. Watch Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra in their historic concert in the city where it all started: St. Petersburg!
In 2015, a lost work by Stravinsky was discovered in a pile of dusty scores in the archives of the St. Petersburg Conservatoire. The work turned out to be Funeral Song, a 12-minute long musical commemoration of Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky's beloved composition professor. The score disappeared soon after its one and only performance in 1909. The composer wrote in his Memoires in 1935:
Unfortunately, the score of this work disappeared during the revolution... 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 crown 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.
Specialists have long considered Funeral Song to be a major work by the composer. Numerous searches were organized after the fall of the Soviet Union in hope of finding the score, all without success. But then...
"Natalia, you were looking for a score by Stravinsky, was it called Funeral Song?"
Like her professors before her, musicologist Natalia Braginskaya had long held on to the hope of finding the precious document when one day, she received a call from Irina Sidorenko, the librarian of the St. Petersburg Conservatoire. Funeral Song had been found! A year later, Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra perform the miraculously-preserved piece.
Photo: Valery Gergiev © Alexander Shapunov
The Historic Stravinsky Memorial Concert, April 1972