Here are some good quotes about the Rite of Spring I have found in my travels.

  • “Almost no musical work has had such a powerful influence or evoked as much controversy as Igor Stravinsky’s ballet score ‘The Rite of Spring'”. (NPR Online)
  • “…it’s also got the best dissonances anyone ever thought up, and the best asymmetries and polytonalities and polyrhythms and whatever else you care to name.” (Leonard Bernstein)
  • “the intersecting of inherently non-symmetrical diatonic elements with inherently non-diatonic symmetrical elements seems…the defining principle of the musical language of Le Sacre and the source of the unparalleled tension and conflicted energy of the work”. (George Perle)
  • “At the performance, mild protests against the music could be heard, from the beginning. Then when the curtain opened … the storm broke…I was unprepared for the explosion…I left the hall in a rage…I have never again been that angry. (Unknown attendee at the premiere).
  • “…a dazzling exercise in the power of music” (Genevieve Thiers)
  • “…arch-revolutionary, an iconoclast out to destroy all the most sacred canons of musical aesthetics and grammar”. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music)

New Dover score

September 6, 2009

After waiting for a couple of weeks for the Amazon juggernaut to process my request, my shiny new copy of The Rite of Spring arrived in the mail.

Mattise's "La Danse" adorns the cover

Matisse's "La Danse" adorns the cover

This version is published by Dover and is a republication of the 1965 version published by the State Music Publishing House in Moscow.

The notation is very clear and the page texture easy on the eyes. An interesting forward by Yarustovsku sets the scene for the reader and analyses the key aspects of the work but at four pages does not delve too deeply.

Russian titles are co-listed with English ones for ease of reading – this being a diversion from the Russian original which had Russian and French section titles side by side.

All in all a good score which provides a good companion for the student or listener – probably not suitable for conducting.

A unique mesh of sound

August 16, 2009

Stravinsky uses orchestration in new and amazing ways in The Rite of Spring which still seem revolutionary even now.

First there is the composition of the orchestra, which is large by any measure. Over-full complements of all instruments abound such as the scoring of four oboes as well as the inclusion of more unusual orchestral instruments in the score such as alto flute, Wagner tubas, bass trumpet and guiro.

Wagner tuba

Wagner tuba

This interesting orchestration offers Stravinsky the ability to create unique meshes of sound through unusual combinations of unusual instruments. A nice example of this is the exposed duet between the bass clarinet and the Eb clarinet. At two octaves apart, blending and intonation become challenges for the performers and yet it creates an eerie and haunting sound.

Another concept employed by Stravinsky in the Rite of Spring is to use instruments in their extreme ranges. There is no more obvious example of this than the opening bars by the solo bassoon which is performing in a terrifyingly high area of its range. It is this tension transferred from the player’s nervousness of operating in this zone combined with the not often heard fragile timbre of the extremity of the instrument which creates one of the most revolutionary sounds of 20th century music.

Who knows the score?

August 10, 2009

It’s always impressive when a conductor takes a risk and directs the orchestra without using a score – but is this possible with a piece as complex as The Rite of Spring?

Hiroyuki Iwaki - famous for his interpretation of The Rite of Spring

Hiroyuki Iwaki - famous for his interpretation of The Rite of Spring with the MSO

Sure is! I had the pleasure of seeing Hiroyuki Iwaki do just that when he conducted the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra about ten years ago in a performance of TRoS at the Melbourne Concert Hall. Iwaki was considered an expert in the interpretation of this piece and for a time TRoS was considered the MSO’s ‘party piece’.

Have you seen a different conductor take on this formidable  challenge?

Exciting news – January 14, 15, 16, and 19 2010 are great if you live anywhere near Chicago as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has put it on the program. I probably won’t be able to get there (I’m in Australia!) but oh well – you never know.

The CSO will perform TRoS in Jan 2010

The CSO will perform TRoS in Jan 2010

What’s also good news is that they have teamed it up with another one of my favourite works – the Berg Violin Concerto.

So this particular concert is all set to be challenging night for some but what could be better than hearing the brass section of the CSO ripping through The Rite of Spring.

If you know of any other planned performances of The Rite of Spring – anywhere in the world – let me know and I’ll feature it here.

With the opening bars of The Rite of Spring marked rubato and the solo marked ad lib. for the bassoonist, how much liberty should be taken?

Bassoon opening to TRoS

Solo bassoon opening to TRoS

In most recordings and live performances I have heard, the bassoon soloist keeps fairly strictly the rhythm and tempo as marked. Does anyone know of a good recording with a bassoonist who has gone out on a limb here?

Being such a famous introduction, it is not surprising that most soloists keep things fairly standard so as not to disappoint the purists but since the common reaction the TRoS is one of shock – why not!?

Keen to hear what you think…

Welcome to the site!

August 9, 2009

Welcome to the new The Rite of Spring site! This is going to be the web’s foremost exciting Stravinsky forum with the latest news, analysis and opinion of performances all over the world as well as in depth analysis and discussion of his work. I encourage you to get involved and discuss the powerful music of Stravinsky especially his most famous work – The Rite of Spring.