This dramatic yet melodic piece was written by an English composer to fit into a recital programme and subsequent CD of Russian Romantic harp music. (see The Firebird's Feather CD)
The composer selected a Russian Fairy tale as the basis of the pieces and the structure and harmonies were influenced by the Russian Romantic composers, and the inclusion - with a special nod to Rachmaninov - of a reference to the 'Dies Irae'.
The story was called 'Princess Vassilissi and the firebird's feather' and is summarized below:
An archer, riding in the woods, discovers a firebird’s feather. Against the advice of his magic horse, he decides to present the feather, seeking his favour, to the King. However, although the King is indeed pleased, he commands the archer to bring him the firebird itself, or he will chop off his head. The archer is scared, of course, but his horse reassures him and hatches a plan to capture the firebird, which they succeed in doing. The King is pleased & so impressed that he then commands him to find the beautiful Princess Vassilissi & bring her to the King for him to marry. If he fails, it’ll be off with his head. Eventually, with his horse’s help, he succeeds, but the Princess refuses to be married without her special wedding dress, which is at the bottom of the sea. The archer rides off and, with his horse having obtained the help of various sea creatures, he again returns eventually, with the dress. However, the Princess then insists that before she weds the King, the archer should jump into a cauldron of boiling water. The archer knows that this time he will surely die, but his horse again reassures him by telling him that he will give him a magic spell which will protect him. Sure enough, the archer climbs into the cauldron, but is unharmed and climbs out more handsome than ever. The King seeing the effect this has had on the archer, jumps into the cauldron and dies. The Princess marries the archer and they live happily ever after.
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