Stravinsky’s Funeral Song

Notes by Steve V. Sinclair

Stravinsky composed this piece in the memory of his mentor and fellow composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who passed away in 1908. It was premiered at a concert in St. Petersburg shortly after Rimsky’s death. In the 1960 book Memories and Commentaries, Stravinsky said:

“. . . I remember the piece as the best of my works before The Firebird, and the most advanced in chromatic harmony. The orchestral parts must have been preserved in one of the St. Petersburg orchestra libraries; I wish someone in Leningrad would look for the parts, for I would be curious myself to see what I was composing just before The Firebird.”

The parts, which were considered lost and thought to have been destroyed in a fire, were finally recovered in 2015 by Natalia Braginskaya, dean of the musicology department at the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory. The piece received its second-ever performance on December 2, 2016 in St. Petersburg, with Valery Gergiev leading the Mariinsky Orchestra, and was premiered in New York by the New York Philharmonic on April 27, 2017.