After Stravinsky attained his first real success with his 50-minute orchestral score to the ballet The Firebird (1910), he prepared shortened versions or suites that might have better chances of being programmed around the world as concert music. English composer Maurice Besly (1888-1945) arranged Stravinsky’s second (1919) suite for organ partly as a pedagogical exercise, but created a worthy piece for performance at the same time.
The last two movements, Berceuse and Finale, depict a lullaby sung by the titular Firebird which puts the monsters to sleep, allowing the hero (Prince Ivan) to smite the villain magician and break an evil spell, which leads to much celebration. The celebration in the Finale is enhanced through the integration of the melodic rhythm into a regular pulse.
Gregg Wager is a composer and critic. He is author of Symbolism as a Compositional Method in the Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen. He has a PhD in musicology from the Free University Berlin and a JD from McGeorge School of Law.