Stravinsky’s Fireworks

Notes by TŌN violist Lucas Goodman

Teacher and Father Figure
Composed in 1908, Igor Stravinsky’s Feu d’Artifice, Op. 4 (Fireworks) is short (4 minutes), yet played a significant role in the young composer’s life. At the time that he wrote it, Stravinsky was studying with the great Russian master Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, whom he would come to hold in the highest esteem as both a teacher and father-figure. The elder Rimsky was aware of Stravinsky’s work on this new orchestral piece, and even requested that Stravinsky send him a copy when it was complete. Stravinsky eagerly complied with his teacher’s request, but the Russian Giant would never see or hear Fireworks. News would soon reach Stravinsky that the great Rimsky had died, and the package was returned to a heartbroken Igor.

A New Relationship
Fireworks premiered in Saint Petersburg in 1909, with Sergei Diaghilev in attendance. Diaghilev was so impressed by Fireworks that he soon thereafter began his own artistic partnership with the young Stravinsky, commissioning him to write music for the famous Ballet Russes in Paris, eventually leading to Stravinsky’s most famous ballet compositions, including The Rite of Spring, The Firebird, and Petrushka, among several others.