Joana Carneiro’s Firebird with the Columbus Symphony

Joana Carneiro chose the rarely performed 1945 suite version of Igor Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird. More often, it's the 1919 version, which is about 10 minutes shorter. Most orchestra auditions require excerpts from the 1919 version.

There are often confusions about note details and articulations, since each version has slightly different edits made by Stravinsky. In this post I compare some of the practical differences between the 1919 and 1945 versions.

Joana Carneiro

Joana Carneiro

But first I'd like to mention what a pleasure it has been to work with the young and vibrant Joana Carneiro. This is Joana's first time conducting the Columbus Symphony. Of course, there haven't been many opportunities for her to conduct us in the past, since she would have been a bit too young. When I came to Columbus in 1989, she would have been 13 years old.

Women conductors have certainly made great strides in the music world in the past few decades. Most notable is the Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony, Marin Alsop. Then there's JoAnn Falletta, the Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. And we have had several appearances of the young and talented Alondra de la Parra.

But from the moment Joana Carneiro began rehearsing the Firebird with us yesterday, I knew she meant business. She is a conductor and a musician who happens to be a woman.

Her confidence is the first thing you notice. She never flinches, never hesitates.

Maestra Carneiro's beat patterns (the motions she uses to show details of her rhythm) are, for lack of a better word, "baroque"; meaning ornate, curly shapes with many little twists and flips. At first it was a bit tricky to follow, but her remarkable rhythm and confidence easily led the way.

She has a remarkable ear for pitch and tone. She hears every detail, and insists on clarity and precision.

Her rehearsal demeanor is mature, very polite and considerate. (Yet she still means business all the way!)

augusta read thomas

Augusta Read Thomas

I look forward to our performances with her tomorrow and Sunday. For more information, please see the Columbus Symphony website. We're also playing a wonderful coloristic piece by composer Augusta Read Thomas, and the vivid Poulenc Gloria for chorus, orchestra and soprano solo, with Kendra Colton, soprano and the spectacular Columbus Symphony Chorus!

Now for some Stravinsky Firebird excerpt comparisons. Here's the first excerpt of the 1919 and 1945 versions. Note the slight different in lick with 3 ascending runs, (end of the last line in the first excerpt and end of the first line in the second). The 1945 is much trickier to get the first run without dragging the tempo. (click on the photo for a larger version)

stravinsky firebird 1919 excerpt 1

Firebird 1919 excerpt 1

stravinsky firebird 1945 excerpt 1

Firebird 1945 excerpt 1

Here's a second excerpt from the Infernal Dance. There is one lick which in the 1945 version is chromatic ascending, and in the 1919 is not, making the 1919 much trickier. It's the 4th line down in each excerpt.

firebird 1919 excerpt 2

Firebird 1919 excerpt 2

stravinsky firebird 1945 excerpt 2

Firebird 1945 excerpt 2

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6 comments for “Joana Carneiro’s Firebird with the Columbus Symphony

  1. Ted Lane
    July 3, 2011 at

    I worked with her in Quito, Ecuador. She was fantastic. She directed a concert with Renee Fleming as soloist. Outstanding.

    • July 5, 2011 at

      Hi Ted- Thanks for your comment. Boy that must have been fantastic, with Fleming and Joana.

  2. William wendt
    April 10, 2010 at

    Is the 1945 version recorded anywhere? I would love to hear the differences. Why did Stravinsky make the update? What a great analysis. Which version do you enjoy the most.

    • April 13, 2010 at

      Hi William. I'm sure it's recorded. Do a search for Firebird, 1945. Stravinsky liked precision in his notations. Other than including more of the music from the original ballet, some of the changes from 1919 to 1945 seem to be to make the part a bit more playable. Perhaps that is not his only motivation, but it appears that way from what I can see.

  3. April 10, 2010 at

    What an intriguing post–first, for the thoughts about the marvelous Joana Carneiro, whom I saw a few years ago. Then for the subtle differences at a micro level in the two Firebird versions.
    Do you prefer 1919 or 1945?

    • April 10, 2010 at

      Hi Bruce. The 1945 version has more music, which is always nice with Stravinsky, whose music I like. Technically, both versions have licks which are either easier or harder. The first excerpt 1919 version is easier, but in the second excerpt the 1945 is much easier.

      I am very impressed w Carniero, and Berkley is lucky to have her!

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