Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Name That Tune

Jeopardy question:  For $2000 under the category of Flaming Cauldrons, What was the piece of music playing when the cauldron was lit at the Sochi opening ceremony?     Unfortunately, you are going to have to remember the scene.  Apparently NBC and the Olympics Committee learned from the best, the NFL, about controlling video on internet.  I couldn’t find any video of the event other than NBC’s post wrap-up which is playing some folk music that NBC dubbed in.    Then again remembering the ease of finding videos of Queen Elizabeth’s dive out of the helicopter in the London games, perhaps larger geopolitical forces are involved.  In any event after a more than reasonable search I could not find a YouTube of the cauldron lighting.  So play back your memories and name the tune that was playing as the Olympic flame shot up the curved pedestal of the cauldron.  

What piece of music was playing?
Image Credit: Julio Cortez/Associated Press
Give up?  Can't remember?  See below.

Igor Stravinsky 1882 -1971

“What is the finale from The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky, Alex.”  

The Firebird  is a ballet written by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky in 1910. It was the work that launched Stravinski’s career through a successful collaboration with Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes.  

The ballet is about a Prince Ivan who captures a magical glowing bird that in exchange for its life helps Ivan win the hand of one of the princess of the enchanted Kashchei the Immortal.  For more information on The Firebird or Stravinsky, click the embedded links in the paragraph above.   While I am not a particular fan of ballet, I often love the music of Russian ballets.  

Here is the entire orchestral work.  I like this particular rendition because both the video and audio quality is very good and it is an orchestral work rather than a ballet (no dancing see the  links below for several renditions of the ballet).   The video zooms in all the various instruments showing the technique used to generate some of the unusual sounds incorporated into the work.  Note, it is actually better to view this video in larger format at YouTube, see the Firebird video link under Image Credits. 

The best way to listen to this piece of music, of course, is from the beginning and listen to the entire composition.   However, because it is a ballet, there are long sections that emphasize the active dance movements and have a rather chaotic quality, much like the soundtrack of an action movie during the battle scenes, great for the action but not something that you are going to hum to yourself.  This is one continuous work and it is not broke up into movements.  Again while I recommend listening to the entire work, if you find yourself getting bogged down, here are the melodic parts which would be a shame to miss.

The Firebird Ballerina, Leon Bakst, 1910

Listen to the first 5 minutes or so and when you decide that the chaos factor is too high for you, grab the slider at the bottom of the video pane and slide it to 18:50 and listen until 25:00.  It gets fairly chaotic again, so slide it to 36:16 for a very beautiful bassoon solo and the concluding 10 minutes of the piece.  

If you just want to hear the part that coincided with the lighting of the Sochi cauldron, move the slider to 42:55.  

If you would like to see the actual ballet with dancing, use the following links to view videos.   The first one is a bit more formal and the quality of the music is good.  The video quality is so so. 

For a somewhat more theatrical performance with a more intricate stage design and close-up video shots of the dancers, try the link below.  The video quality is better but there are some tacky visual effects and the audio quality is inferior to the video above.   

In both of the videos, pay attention to the small motions with the hands and feet that the Firebird (ballerina in red) mimics bird movements--wonderful choreography.

Image & Video Credits:

Lighting of the Cauldron:  Julio Cortez/Associated Press  from, Olympic Torch Lighting 2014: Best Moments from Opening Ceremony of Sochi Games, Feb 7, 2014

Igor Stravinsky:  Wikipedia, Igor Stravingsky

The Firebird Ballerina:  Wikipedia, The Firebird


  1. Thank you for some musical education. i will watch the ballet later and try to imagine myself in it.

  2. If you like ballet, I think you will find this a good one. In any event, you would look great in a red tutu with that head piece.

    Olga, always an honor, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. Wow, that conductor really gets into it! I've always thought conductors were pretty much for show, but you can see that this one is truly leading the musicians and they are fixated on him. The music is very chaotic but when I watched it with the ballet dancers I really saw why it had to be that way. Great post! I'm sad to say that I kept dozing on and off throughout the opening ceremonies but I've been a little under the weather. I hear they were pretty great though.

    1. Yes, he got into it. Sweat was dripping off his hair and beard by the end. I still think conductors are all for show, however they do heavily influence the resulting sound of the orchestra. Some of the younger conductors experiment with tempos and key in ways that I do not appreciate. I find I like the old boys most European conductors far better than some of the younger guys. I have never heard a bad rendition from Solti, Bernstein, Ormandy, Szell, Steinberg, or Maazel. That said I think there is far too damned much ass kissing for those prissy bastards. Respect is earned not awarded by demand.

      Personally I would like to see a woman conductor, speaking of which did you notice a tremendous lack of women in the Vienna Philharmonic. I only saw two playing the harps and it seemed like they cameras were angled to hide their faces.

      Aha! Check out "Controversies" at:

      Women were banned until 1997 (this was done in 2000) and even today they only have 6 female members. Their loss.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Alicia.

    2. I did not notice that...about the women, but it figures. That is sad that there are only six female members now. But even in rock and many successful all girl bands are there? Or even bands with 1 girl, unless she's the eye candy?

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