Long-lost Stravinsky work to receive New Zealand premiere, 108 years later

The recently-rediscovered score of Igor Stravinsky’s Funeral Song is swiftly being programmed into concerts by leading orchestras around the world, and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) is pleased to present the New Zealand and Australian premiere on 3 May 2017.

Funeral Song (Pogrebal'naya Pesnya) Op.5, penned by the 26-year-old composer as an orchestral memorial tribute to his teacher Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, disappeared after its premiere in 1909. It was widely assumed by musicologists, and even by Stravinsky himself, to have been destroyed during the 1917 Revolution or civil war that followed. The score was finally unearthed late last year in the library of the St Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory, and received its first performance in modern times in St Petersburg on 2 December 2016, also live streamed on the internet.

The rediscovery has aroused immense interest in the musical world, and is considered the missing link between Stravinsky’s early works and his ballet The Firebird, which launched his international career and cemented his place in the 20th century musical canon.

More than 30 performances of the 12-minute score have been scheduled by leading orchestras and conductors in 2017 and beyond. British conductor Rumon Gamba will lead the APO in the New Zealand premiere, as part of the New Zealand Herald Premier Series concert From Russia with Love at Auckland Town Hall. North Shore residents will get another chance to hear the work at a second performance scheduled the following night as part of the APO on the Shore series at Bruce Mason Centre.

Mr Gamba says he is looking forward to conducting this ‘new’ work. “Tuning in to the live internet broadcast of the first modern day performance of Stravinsky’s supposedly lost Funeral Song was a surprisingly emotional experience. Here was music by a composer of which one knows virtually every note, speaking to us with a new voice from beyond the grave and giving us a chance to hear how a young composer was developing his own style whilst absorbing the influences of composers past and present.

“Will it affect how we listen to and interpret his known oeuvre? Perhaps, but I, for one, cannot wait to bring this powerful new music by such a revered master to life for the first time ever in New Zealand,” Mr Gamba adds.

Funeral Song replaces Vasily Kalinnikov’s Serenade for Strings in the concert programme. Other pieces remain as previously advertised: Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.4 featuring guest soloist Kathryn Stott, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4.

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