Igor Stravinsky composed his Chant Funebre in 1908 as a memorial marking the death of Stravinsky’s teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, and it was performed the following January. After that, the music was thought lost until it was discovered in a pile of manuscripts at the St Petersburg Conservatory three years ago.
Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra gave the second performance in December 2016, and now we have the first recording courtesy of Riccardo Chailly and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.
Stravinsky himself wrote in his autobiography: “I can remember the idea at the root of its conception, which was that all the solo instruments of the orchestra filed past the tomb of the master in succession, each laying down its own melody as its wreath against a deep background of tremolo murmurings simulating the vibrations of bass voices singing in a chorus.”
You can tell that it was written only a year or so before The Firebird: the mournful double basses in the very first bar sound like they could have come straight from the later work. It’s a magnificent piece, and it’s thrilling to hear it finally.
Here is the premiere of this long lost work: