2013 is the 100th anniversary of the premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and 2013 will see more than 270 performances of this iconic work of the early 20th century.
Donald Rosenberg, long-time music critic and reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, has written a fascinating article about the Rite in this month’s Symphony magazine. He begins with a description of the pandemonium that occurred at the premiere. To my surprise, he states that most of the commotion was because of Vaslav Nijinksy’s choreography, not the music. In fact, the noise from the audience obliterated the music for most attendees and left poor Nijinsky, “standing on a chair backstage, shouting counts to the dancers.”
Don showcases The Rite of Spring at 100 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which has a season-long celebration of conferences and 11 commissioned instrumental and dance works based on the Rite.
He also discusses the complexity of the piece as perceived over the years. My favorite quote is from Stanislav Skrowaczewski, who recorded the piece with Minnesota in 1977:
As a boy, I wasn’t allowed in the mountains of Poland. The local place was inhabited by this sort of tribe. They had in the summer in the full moon absolutely incredible rites at night that I saw from far away. I don’t think they were drinking. But because of the rites, they were in another state of mind. It was dangerous, because they could kill you in this state of mind. They were in a sort of ecstasy that we sometimes get through music. The beginning of the second part always gives me a shiver.
The most interesting part of Don’s article, for me as an symphony musician, are his interviews with five principal bassoonists with five major American orchestras, discussing the opening bassoon solo.
Two comments to begin with:
Don’s interviews of five premiere bassoonists, discussing this legendary and oh-so-difficult solo, is really fun. I urge you to take a look at the article.
Thanks to Don for a wonderful tribute to Stravinsky’s greatest work!
Polyphonic recently received a most interesting submission from composer Stephen Malinowski, who has created a graphical interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It’s hard to describe in words but fascinating to watch — a graphical interpretation in real time of the entire score, using various geometric forms over time — just go look at it! My orchestra (Hartford Symphony) is one of the 270 planning to perform the Rite this year (in early June), and I certainly intend to watch composer Malinowski’s video while watching my part, before my first rehearsal. I imagine, despite the many times I’ve played this work, it will give me an insight into a new dimension of understanding of a beloved piece.