The Firebird

I hope that you were able to attend Osmo’s Farewell concert, or at least listen to MPR’s broadcast. Circumstances conspired to keep me at home, so I listened from afar. In all brutal honesty, it was probably a good thing I wasn’t there in person; my sobs would have spoiled the broadcast. Brian Newhouse knocked it out of the park – he never succumbed to unwarranted pessimism or optimism, he never assigned blame, and he made it very clear that it was the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra onstage, not the Minnesota Orchestra. Everyone turned in a flawless performance. Bravo. It was a show for the ages.

After I dried my tears, I looked up the story of the Firebird and stumbled across this website.

And I cried some more.

The Firebird is known to many as the Phoenix. It is a mythical bird that lives in five hundred year cycles, which is able to regenerate from injury and is therefore, immortal. With plumage of red and gold that illuminates its flight, the Phoenix is as much a symbol of divinity as it is of fire and many legendary tales have evolved around its existence. Its most spoken about quality, that has inspired stories of encouragement or been compared to adversities that have been overcome, is that the Phoenix, nearing the end of its life cycle, builds a nest where he sets himself and the nest on fire. From the ashes left behind, a young Phoenix rises, to take the place of the older…

The glow from the Firebird’s feather was powerful enough to light up an entire room. It is also believed to bring hope and relief to the suffering and in need, and one story in particular tells of pearls falling from the Firebird’s beak to the peasants below, for them to trade for food…

Over the ages, the Phoenix, or Firebird, has inspired many artists, such as Igor Stravinsky, who in 1910 immortalized the legend of the Firebird, in his ballet score of the same name. From being a symbol of doom to hope, the Firebird’s rise from its ashes has given many the inspirations to rebuild their lives and to believe that there is light in even their darkest moments. The Firebird holds a sacred place in the folklore of Russia, as a creature that is in itself as much of a mystery as the legendary tales.

12 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra

12 responses to “The Firebird

  1. Karin

    Good thing you were not there Emily as it was difficult to not just sit down and sob at the end. What a senseless and needless travesty it is!

  2. Bryan

    Yes, the Firebird as Phoenix. And let’s not forget Egmont as the honest man martyred by the evil oppressors. Osmo knew what he wanted to say with this program.
    And Valse triste, with no applause, was probably the most heart-wrenchingly sad musical statement I’ve ever heard. Who could not wipe away tears after that?

  3. JKM

    We attended the Friday performance and then listened to the Saturday night broadcast. It was indeed a performance for the ages. We understand that MPR is putting the broadcast into its archives and is considering making a CD available with proceeds to go to the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. A CD of the music with Brian Newhouse’s commentary would be welcome, but it would be nice to have a CD of the entire performance from the opening ovation to the final silence.

  4. Sorry you could not make it Emily. Glad you heard it via MPR. As you know the whole concert was spectacular. The Firebird was the best I ever heard. The orchestra is still alive and now it is down to the us and the musicians. I don’t see anything else on the horizon. If the musicians are serious about staying here, and I won’t blame them if they are not, then we need to start work right away. I’m going to try and clear the decks this week here at the lake.

  5. Mark H.

    I attended the concert at 2 pm on Saturday. I also listened to much of the Sat. night concert on the radio.
    The concert began with the musicians playing the Star-Spangled Banner.
    There were standing ovations at the end of each piece. The audience was warm and enthusiastic. Emmanuel Ax had good rapport with Osmo and the musicians. Osmo was quite athletic.
    At 2 pm concert he did address the audience before the encore. You could a pin drop when he started to speak. It was an emotional moment. He said with his Finnish accent that he would miss the audience and the musicians, and that it was difficult to know what to say. He explained the significance of dance of death to the encore piece. He then asked the audience to refraining from applause.
    After the end of the encore, a few applauded for a second or two by mistake, but quickly stopped. Osmo seemed to quickly leave. All left. There seemed to be little talk or conversation. It reminded me of a Good Friday church service in which the congregants leave in silence and darkness.
    At the Sat. night concert, Osmo repeated what he said before the encore, but he added an explanation that I don’t recall he gave at the 2 pm concert. He said that the situation was terrible and the musicians felt almost hopeless, and the situation does not deserve applause.
    Is there a significance to the choice of the Sibelius waltz? Perhaps expressing his feelings about the conducting the orchestra? The choice of this piece seemed highly unusual, but no doubt it was meant to reflect the situation.
    Is there a significance to the choice of the Egmont Overture? A rebellion against oppression?
    Is there a precedent for such an ending to a concert?
    Certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    I have checked this blog regularly the last few months. I am so sorry that it has come to this. Thanks for all of your insight. I wish we could keep Vanska here, but perhaps the ending of the concert is his signal that it is time for him to go.

    • My gut instinct is that Osmo is not actually leaving. This was his resignation from the Minnesota Orchestral Association, not the musicians, or the state of Minnesota. At this point in time, these are all very different entities. I do not want to make anyone unduly optimistic, and I have zero inside information, but if I had to lay down money today, I’d bet that Osmo will return to us in some capacity, at some point in time, perhaps as a guest artist or artistic consultant who can provide leadership from afar. Not to the MOA, but for whatever organization rises from its ashes.

      This was a farewell to his music directorship with the MOA. Not necessarily to us.

  6. Andrew

    The music had the true spirit of revolution in it and I could almost smell the cordite in the air after the firebird. What a wonderful performance! This was really the beginning of a new road of artistic excellence. Well done to everyone involved, I look forward to a new season of music.

  7. Geo.

    Somewhat off this particular topic, but you might want to make the following the subject of your next blog entry on the Minnesota Orchestra debacle. Roger Wright, Controller of the BBC Proms, had been planning for a Sibelius symphony cycle at the 2015 Proms by the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vanska, in the Sibelius 150th anniversary year. However, that’s not going to happen, per this passage from Wright’s Royal Philharmonic Society address last week:

    http://royalphilharmonicsociety.org.uk/images/uploads/RPS_Lecture_2013_Roger_Wright.pdf

    “At our summer festival, the BBC Proms, we usually only announce events that are taking place. Sadly, however, I can let you know that the first ever residency by an orchestra from the US will not now be happening at the Proms in 2015. We had planned for some years a Sibelius symphony cycle by Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra and had held on to the plan through this last difficult year, only having to accept in the last fortnight, with Osmo’s tragic but understandable resignation, that it won’t happen.”

    This is on top of the loss of the Carnegie concerts this season.

  8. I have no words to express my heartache over this latest sad announcement. It strikes me as very odd that this is a town and state that spend literally billions of dollars (much of it from taxpayers) on sports palaces and teams that continually lose; where hitting the ball a third of the time is considered excellent. They continually speak with optimism about “winning it all”, but rarely get there. Yet, when we actually have an entity that actually IS world-class, where the players are considered excellent not only when 100% of the notes are correct ALL THE TIME, but are played beautifully, these same “leaders” don’t get it, and are willing to let this world-class entity disappear. Bizarre at best.

  9. WeeFee

    The Saturday night concert was an emotional roller-coaster – exceptional highs of musical excellence and hope that something may happen, with exceptional lows realising all these amazingly talented people are being driven away and prevented from doing what they do best and not getting paid. Still cry thinking about it.

    MO came to the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago, and it was interesting to note there were no US orchestras at the festival this year. The Proms residency would have been amazing, and shame on MOA for not realising that this is probably the only orchestra who could have executed this opportunity and drew in the crowds necessary for a sell-out season, putting MN on the tourist map.

  10. WeeFee

    I think I remember Osmo saying the Valse Triste was from a tone poem representing death, and he outlined part of the story, which I can’t recall now. So while it is a dance, it is a dance of death, not of life, and fitting for his final concert.

  11. Pingback: Review: Minnesota Orchestra and Renee Fleming, September 2014 | Song of the Lark

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