K8 Chant Funèbre
sur la mort de Rimsky-Korssakow – Trauergesang (Trauermarsch) für Orchester, geschrieben auf den Tod Nikolai A. Rimsky-Korssakows – Funeral Dirge for wind instruments in memory of Rimsky-Korsakov – Canto funebre (Marcia funebre) per orchestra (strumenti a fiato) scritto sulla morte di Rimsky-Korsakow op. 6
Remarks: Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov died on 8/21 June 1908 on his estate at Lyubensk in what is now the Pskov district of St. Petersburg. Our entire knowledge of the Funeral Dirge for wind instruments that Strawinsky wrote in his memory, including Strawinsky’s stylistic assessment of the piece, derives from the composer himself. It was unpublished, and the manuscript was believed to be lost for a long time. According to Strawinsky, there exists the possibility that the orchestral parts, which were lost in the confusion of the October Revolution, may still exist in one of St. Petersburg’s orchestral libraries. It was performed – presumably for the first and last time – at the first of the Belayev Concerts to be held in St. Petersburg following Rimsky-Korsakov’s death. The conductor was Felix Blumenfeld. Of none of his early works (in other words, those that predate The Firebird) did Strawinsky have such a high opinion as he did of the present piece. It was, he claimed, the best thing he had written until then, better even than Fireworks and the Scherzo fantastique. Never before had he gone so far in the direction of chromatic harmony. Structurally, the piece was built on a tremolando background that listeners were meant to interpret as the tremulous murmurings of a funeral chorus made up of bass voices. The solo instruments of the orchestra were personified as figures filing past the tomb of the dead composer, each laying down its melody as though it were a wreath placed upon the tomb. The device described here is one that Strawinsky was later to develop in his ballet Petrushka and can be traced back to pre-Classical models, being found in a number of Baroque cantatas as well as in the final chorus of Bach’s St Matthew Passion. It is possible that the perceptive Boris Asafyev, who published the first Russian life of Strawinsky under the pen name of Boris Glebov in 1929, heard the Funeral Dirge.
Strawinsky turned out to be correct in his assumption that the manuscript would reappear sometime in one of the Russian archives. The Russian musicologist Natalya Braginskaya reported the find on 4th September 2015 at a Congress in St. Petersburg. The work, estimated to last 12 minutes, was in a pile of old manuscripts in a back room in the St. Petersburg Conservatory. The room must have been emptied for renovation works. During this process, an employee of the library came across the lost manuscript.
K Catalog: Annotated Catalog of Works and Work Editions of Igor Strawinsky till 1971, revised version 2014 and ongoing, by Helmut Kirchmeyer.
© Helmut Kirchmeyer. All rights reserved.
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