April 25, 2009 – 4:19 am

PIERRE BOULEZ R.I.P. 1925-2016

Pierre Boulez, who began his career as a radical modernist composer dedicated to overthrowing classical traditions and lived to become one of the most revered and sought-after orchestral conductors in the world, has died on January 6, 2016 in Baden-Baden, Germany. He was 90. His family announced the death to the Philharmonie Paris but did not disclose a cause. Boulez came to public attention as the leading voice of postwar avant-garde music in France, an enfant terrible given to making public suggestions such as “the most elegant way of solving the opera problem would be to blow up the opera houses.” Throughout his life, however, he remained devoted to new and unusual music. During his bracing tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1971 to 1978, he led the orchestra through more contemporary works than it had played since the 19th century. -

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The Firebird Suite [no label, 1CD]
Conductor Pierre Boulez with Orchestre de Paris

Live at the Salle Pleyel, Paris, France, Dec 1, 2008 afternoon concert. An FM recording broadcast Dec 11, 2008.

Yes fans were treated to the final minutes of Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite as  it opened each show during the Fragile and Close To The Edge tour at the start of the ’70s. This was ammunition for critics who lambasted progressive rock for being pompous.

Another way of looking at it at the time was that rock musicians wanted to be taken seriously. Yes and prog rock in general decided to embrace classical music’s epic style and musical virtuosity by electrifying it. For the past week, BigO has been offering ’70s Yes concerts which make this point - 20-minute long suites with inventive soloing by guitarist, keyboardist and drummer. The albums covered included Fragile, Close To The Edge, Tales From Topographic Oceans and Relayer. Each taking one experimental step forward.

Wikipedia has this to say about Stravinsky:

“[His] work has also had a great deal of influence in musical genres outside of classical. Throughout their career, the progressive rock group Yes have opened their live concerts with an excerpt from The Firebird, and their 1974 song ‘The Gates of Delirium’ is heavily influenced by musical ideas pioneered by Stravinsky. Another prog rock band Manfred Mann’s Earth Band used thematic material from The Firebird as the basis for the track Starbird on their album The Roaring Silence.

“Electronic musician Isao Tomita arranged a synthesized version of the short 1919 Firebird suite for his 1975 album of the same name.

“Cliff Eidelman’s score for the 1991 film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country borrows thematic elements from the Firebird.

“The ballet was also the inspiration for Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix series.”

Finally: “Hip-Hop band The Beastie Boys Sampled Firebird in the song Electrify on the album Hello Nasty.”

“Pompous” then seems a hasty remark to make on Yes’ music. Stravinsky’s Firebird would not be labelled so. He composed it in 1910 at the start of his career for a ballet. He would revise it three times into shorter suites of about 20 minutes for concert performances. The original complete ballet version is around 50 minutes.

Frenchman Pierre Boulez is both conductor, composer and innovator of modern music pushing the classical form into greater abstraction and experimentation. He has recorded The Firebird a couple of times. His latest performance of The Firebird is the long version [clocking here at 45 mins]. Boulez breathes live into his version as much as Yes synthesized traditional electric blues rock and classical music into a third dimension.

Thanks to Uncle Meat for sharing this show on the Dime.
- Professor Red

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L’Oiseau de Feu (The Firebird) (1910) (45:04) (61.9MB)

This Pierre Boulez performance of Firebird Suite was originally recorded in 1967 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Buy the 2005 remastered edition here.

  1. 4 Responses to “STRAVINSKY - FIREBIRD SUITE (PIERRE BOULEZ R.I.P. 1925-2016)”

  2. not only prog rockers used the firebird suite to open their concerts, also siouxsie and the banshees (to be heard on their “nocturne” live-cd which is reissued now).

    By Walter on Apr 27, 2009

  3. This work from Stravinsky is a perfect link between the metalheads, headbangers, prog rockers, and other misguided 20th century musicians and listeners, and classical music.

    By O.B. Dan on Apr 30, 2009

  4. Surprised Zappa isnt mentioned…
    Huge influence on His music

    By pturkk on May 2, 2009

  5. siouxsie and the banshees used theme from the another Stravinsky balet- Le Sacre du Printemps (Tableaux de la Russie païenne) in English The Rite of Spring

    By Joseph on May 3, 2009

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