Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture features tunes based on Russian Orthodox chants, and the mood ranges from solemnity to exuberant celebration.
The Firebird is one of Stravinsky’s early ballets, retelling an ancient Russian folk tale in which we meet a villainous ogre, imprisoned princesses and the magical Firebird. The gorgeous melodies and colourful orchestration remind us that Stravinsky was one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s pupils.
The Symphonic Dances was Rachmaninov’s final composition, and his continuing obsession with the Dies Irae chant and Russian church music conveys his sense of impending doom. The brilliant scoring includes a piano, alto saxophone and large percussion section. A succession of lyrical melodies, a waltz from a haunted ballroom and a whirling witches’ Sabbath lead to the triumphant ending, in which ‘Death is swallowed up in Victory’.