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Classical 101

Lost Stravinsky Work Rediscovered after More Than a Century

black-an-white portrait of Igor Stravinsky
public domain
Igor Stravinsky

A “long-delayed overhaul” at the St. Petersburg Conservatory has resulted in the rediscovery of an important work by Russian modernist composer Igor Stravinsky after a century-long absence, according to a story by Stravinsky expert Stephen Walsh in The Guardian.

In 1908, Stravinsky composed his orchestral work Funeral Song in memory of his teacher Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who had died in June of that year. The young composer, then only 26, was still at the beginning of his career and a virtual unknown both in and beyond Russia, having not yet fully made his way into the St. Petersburg community, and having not yet composed his ballet score for Firebird, which would launch his international career and cement his fame.

Funeral Song was performed only once, in January 1909. The work was later presumed to have been destroyed in the 1917 Russian Revolution or the Russian Civil War.

But Russian musicologists speculated that the score and/or orchestral parts for Funeral Song could still exist among materials in need of organization in Russian archives. Aided by librarians and archivists, Stravinsky specialist Natalya Braginskaya, dean of the musicology faculty at St. Petersburg’s State Conservatory of Music, launched a search for Stravinsky’s work.

In fall 2015, when the St. Petersburg Conservatory building was emptied for what Walsh describes as “a long-delayed overhaul,” a librarian with whom Braginskaya had discussed Funeral Song found the orchestral parts for Stravinsky’s work amid stacks of scores and parts that had gone untouched for decades.

Braginskaya described the rediscovered work in a paper entitled “Unpublished, Lost … : New Light on the Fate of Some Early Works of Stravinsky,” given Sept. 4, 2015 at a meeting of the International Musicological Society in St. Petersburg.

Read more:

  • Key Igor Stravinsky Work Found after 100 Years (Guardian)
  • Lost Stravinsky Work Turns Up after 100 Years (WQXR)
  • Stravinsky Between East and West (IMS Website)
Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.