Artistic project – summary

François-Xavier Roth revives the unique sound of the original orchestra of Les Ballets Russes, which premiered The Firebird and Les Orientales, on this new release, recorded live with his orchestra Les Siècles during 2010.

Sergei Diaghliev’s Paris-based Ballets Russes created ground-breaking collaborations between contemporary choreographers, composers, artists and dancers in the early 20th century. Diaghilev’s commission for a ballet after the Russian fairy tale of The Firebird went to the relatively unknown 27-year old Igor Stravinsky who completed the score in just four months. The finished production, with choreography by Fokine, was premiered with great success alongside Les Orientales with Gabriel Pierné conducting the orchestra at the Opéra de Paris on 25 June 1910.

To celebrate the centenary of Les Ballets Russes, François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles gave a series of performances at Cité de la Musique in Paris and in Aix en Provence of a programme including Borodin’s Polotsvian Dances and Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheheredzade. Roth commissioned new orchestrations of two of the dances for Les Orientales – the originals having been lost: Bruno Mantovani for Puck from the Grieg Lyric Pieces Op 71 No 3 (orchestrated by Stravinsky for the premiere) and Charlie Piper for Dance Orientale Op 32 No 5 by Sinding.

Sharing François-Xavier Roth’s desire to revive the strong identity of the orchestra which premiered these pieces, the musicians of Les Siècles used original and reproduction instruments by illustrious French manufacturers. “They are extremely resourceful and have sometimes been detectives to track down instruments through other musicians, dealers and even on ebay!” says Roth. For more background to the recording and further information about the instruments please see the accompanying article.

video by François-Xavier Roth (in french)

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