M. Daugherty Fire and Blood
Stravinsky The Firebird
Kristjan Järvi conductor
Chad Hoopes violin
£5 under 25s tickets in association with Classic FM
The world's greatest orchestra of teenagers burns bright in this electrifying sound experience conducted by vibrant musical personality Kristjan Järvi.
Join virtuosic young soloist Chad Hoopes and 'the most uplifting orchestra in the world' (The Times), for Fire and Blood, a concerto for violin and
orchestra by one of America's greatest composers Michael Daugherty. It's highly charged music, describing the fiery furnaces of 1930s American car assembly lines, with colourful orchestration and pulsing rhythms.
In contrast Stravinsky’s masterpiece The Firebird is a romantic sparkling fairy-tale ballet based on the Russian legend, weaving human and supernatural worlds, and wonderfully showcasing every instrument in the orchestra.
Join us this spring for a blazing, totally teenage musical experience.
A production of NYO in association with the Menuhin Competition London 2016.
'they also play with palpable energy — so much energy — enthusiasm and optimism. They are a joy to see and hear.’
4 stars, The Times
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Fri 8 April 1-2pm
Southbank Centre, Clore Ballroom
World premiere performance
Click here for more info.
Sat 9 April 6-7pm
Music Room, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
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All free concerts, non-ticketed.
We boast a section you won’t find in any other orchestra: our very own teenage composers. Our free Creative Hub concerts instantly bring their ideas to life through chamber performances by NYO Musicians. It's here that you'll experience bold creativity and the young voice in new music.
This Spring, our seven teenage composers presented new works inspired by urban and industrial landscapes - all with a big sound and a big idea.
Click here to explore more about the music - NYO Composers in their own words shed light on their musical ideas and inspirations.
We broke out of the concert hall and gave an immersive orchestral experience.
Surprises were at every turn as we morphed before the audience's eyes with a special performance of Stravinsky's vibrant ballet The Firebird, a BBC Ten Pieces work.
Fri 8 April 6.30pm
St. Paul's Pavilion, Level 6
Free for under-25 ticket holders
NYO Young Promoters from Lister Community School welcomed teenage audience members to this special Eat-n-Greet reception. NYO Musicians and other teenagers mingled, and our Young Promoters presented about the music performed on the night.
The safety warning on boxes of fireworks advises that they are not to be handled by anyone under 18. Let’s see what happens then as NYO delves into Stravinsky’s casket of firecrackers. While composers from Handel to Debussy to Oliver Knussen have written their own music capturing the thrill of fireworks, unsurprisingly Stravinsky invested his batch with a particularly generous helping of dynamite. Once the flutes start fizzing – in an opening that will remind you of those comically long fuse-wires burning away in cartoons – some truly explosive mayhem lies in store. Trumpets sparkle, strings and woodwind whirl, and tiny glockenspiel comets seem to erupt every time the drums are struck.
In the midst of all this, a wistful string figure practically pinches a refrain from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas which wowed audiences a decade earlier. But while that piece evoked pure fantasy, Stravinsky was striving to interpret something real: it’s almost like he anatomises the
scientific ingredients of pyrotechnics, and refashions them, one atom at a time, in music. Certainly, his brisk little showstopper captures the drama and ephemera of a firework display in ways that visual artists and photographers never could. Aptly, Fireworks lit the touchpaper on the composer’s own stratospheric career: among the audience at its premiere was the impresario Sergei Diaghilev who was so impressed that he invited Stravinsky to write The Firebird.
II. River Rouge
III. Assembly Line
With its interplay of elaborate contraptions and many moving parts, an orchestra is almost like a factory: something Michael Daugherty sensed when writing his violin concerto, which salutes the vast car plants of the American motor industry. Daugherty was inspired by the multi-panelled murals that Ford commissioned from the Mexican artist Diego Rivera (worth Googling) crammed with machines and men with sleeves rolled up hard at work. While the finale’s title alludes to this, the whole concerto is like one giant assembly line, the solo violin propelled along a relentless conveyer belt by the rest of the orchestra, full of motoring motifs, percussive crunches and clangs. As in the murals, the distinction between man and machine is even blurred as the violin switches back and forth from ardent lyrical sighs to punchy mechanical patterns, often triple-stopping, striking three notes simultaneously across three strings. Sparks fly, courtesy of glockenspiel, triangle and crotales. Daugherty cranks up the heat with maracas and marimba, reflecting Rivera’s Mexican heritage. This is evident even more so in the mariachi band that pipes up in the second movement, an ode to Rivera’s wife and fellow artist Frida Kahlo. Here, the violin evokes her tortured spirit. Daugherty says ‘the soloist introduces two main themes. The first is dissonant and chromatic, flowing like a red river of blood. The second is a haunting melody that Kahlo herself might have sung, longing to return to her native Mexico.’ Whilst this interlude takes us away from the factory floor, the music yet swings between the lyrical and mechanical, as if to suggest artists are machines too: pushing themselves mercilessly to achieve perfection. If this is our nature, the finale seems to
say, then we may as well accept it: and duly the violin and orchestra plunge into another blaze of industry. With whooping horns, whips clacking like tap-shoes, a spinning ratchet, and incessant violin pirouettes, the virtue in work is awoken and the whole ensemble winds up dancing.
Did you know?
‘In my dreams I see myself on a wolf’s back, riding along a forest path, to do battle with a sorcerer. In that land, a princess sits under lock and key, pining behind massive walls. There, gardens surround a palace made of glass where firebirds sing by night and peck at golden fruit.’
Welcome to the world of Russian fairy tale. Knowing this exoticism would appeal to his chic Paris audience, Sergei Diaghilev based the Ballet Russes’ first original commission on fables that had enchanted generations of Russian children. He and his colleagues drew on the above tale by mid-19th century poet Polonsky, knitting it with the popular saga of a phoenix with magical powers. This was a bit like blending Harry Potter and The Gruffalo, before there were copyright laws. To set this confection to music, Diaghilev asked numerous notable composers. The young Stravinsky was his fifth choice. In fact, Stravinsky had started sketching it before he was officially asked. Rather precocious, you might say, or maybe nothing could hold back music this propulsive. Over a century later, it retains all its force, like lava bursting from a volcano.
Stravinsky had been waiting for an opportunity like this. Though its luscious orchestration and use of folk tunes frequently recall his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky himself noted ‘by that stage I was already in revolt against poor Rimsky’. (You can almost hear this at one moment when plaintive violin and oboe solos so redolent of Rimsky’s Scheherazade are sent packing by a jeering trumpet and spikey plucked strings.) Keen to be taken seriously among the big boys, Stravinsky’s harp-flecked strings echo Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy and the melting string glissandi at the very start mimic the same effect in Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole, both written just a couple of years before. The spectral texture and whole-tone harmonies of Debussy’s decade-old Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune are equally present. As Stravinsky himself later said, ‘lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.’
And yet, from the slithering figure that opens the ballet – starkly voiced by tuba, bass clarinet and double bass – The Firebird has a confidence all its own. In even its quiet interludes (mostly omitted from the three suites Stravinsky shaped from the ballet), every beat has a painterly precision. Despite having a vast orchestra at his fingertips, Stravinsky favoured finding fresh colours in novel combinations of instruments rather than deploying them constantly at once to create drama. In this, he was like the Expressionist artists of the day who recognised how every tiny shade and brushstroke could shape the whole canvas. There isn’t a moment of ‘filler’ – historian Richard Taruskin notes how even the incidental scenes have the narrative import of operatic recitative. The Firebird then isn’t just a ballet: it’s an opera for orchestra.
A few minutes in, as the title character emerges, Stravinsky creates the illusion of fire through the translucent flickering of tremolo strings and flutter-tongued woodwind. He creates heat just like engines do, with many different melodic shapes spinning over and over like cogs and turbines. Things combust midway when the hero Ivan meets the wicked sorcerer Koschei and rasping trumpets and drums smash through the swirling strings. It’s a taste of things to come in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Still, both here and in the climactic ‘infernal dance’, it’s not what he unleashes but what he holds back that matters. In both moments, we only experience quick blasts of orchestral fury and it’s the quieter unsettled scurrying between that really gets the heart racing. It’s like a thousand subsequent horror movies where you fear the monster all the more by only glimpsing flashes of it rather than seeing it full in the face.
While listening, you can slavishly following the patchwork narrative devised for the original staging, but music of this power has so much more to offer. Notably, when Walt Disney Pictures animated it for Fantasia 2000, they ditched Diaghilev’s story in which the Firebird is the hero, turning it into the villain, ultimately defeated by the steadfast force of Mother Nature. Freed from its initial setting and choreography, the Firebird dances in new directions. Let it take your mind on an adventure of your own making.
Did you know?