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'The Firebird' costume illustration by Léon Bakst

PREVIEW: BSO to perform full score of Stravinsky’s ‘The Firebird’ at Tanglewood

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By Wednesday, Aug 1, 2018 Arts & Entertainment

Lenox — Fans of Igor Stravinsky understand that complete performances of his “Firebird” ballet are uncommon and always highly anticipated. So does the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which will perform the entire score at Tanglewood on the evening of Friday, Aug. 3, under the baton of BSO associate conductor Ken-David Masur.

“The Firebird” is usually presented within one of Stravinsky’s suites, which have always been received enthusiastically by audiences unfamiliar with the full score. The suites are essentially collections of the ballet’s greatest hits. But, as Steven Ledbetter has pointed out, “The Firebird” is more like a danced opera than a conventional narrative ballet.

2018 Koussevitzky Artist Kirill Gerstein will perform Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto with Ken-David Masur and the Boston Symphony Orchestra Friday, Aug. 3, at Tanglewood. Photo: Marco Borggreve

“Thus,” he writes, “hearing only the suite is like listening to a record of the favorite arias from a popular opera without ever hearing the dramatic links.” He’s absolutely right, and savvy listeners agree that the full score provides an artistic experience vastly superior to that of hearing the popular dances only. The entire score of “The Firebird” is a revelation, and hearing it performed in concert is an exhilarating experience that Stravinsky aficionados always crave but haven’t known at Tanglewood since the summer of 2014.

As if the complete “Firebird” wouldn’t be enough for one utterly satisfying evening of music, add to it a performance by 2018 Koussevitzky Artist Kirill Gerstein of Rachmaninoff’s most popular piano concerto — the one that put him on the map: No. 2 — and you have a program of rare and highly improbable delectability.

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