Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, May 29

Stravinsky's "Rite" at 100+

Synopsis

It was on today’s date in 1913 that Igor Stravinsky’s ballet “The Rite of Spring” premiered at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, provoking catcalls and fisticuffs from some in the audience. Most scholars suggest it was the ungainly, deliberately primitive choreography of Vaslav Nijinsky, more than Stravinsky’s score, that provoked the most negative response.

Pierre Monteux’s concert performance—without the dancing—at the Casino de Paris the following Spring marked the start of the score’s success as pure music. On that occasion, Stravinsky was carried in triumph from the hall on the shoulders of his admirers.

Shortly before his death in 1929, Sergei Diaghilev, who had commissioned Stravinsky’s score, was enthusiastically quoting a review in the London Times that suggested (perhaps ironically) that the “Rite of Spring” would be for the 20th century what Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was for the 19th.

Well, that has rather turned out to be the case, in fact, and by 2013, a piece of orchestral music that in 1913 was considered almost unplayable is routinely programmed as a classic orchestral showpiece.

One New York Times critic even wrote “… now everybody knows “The Rite.” [It’s] an audition piece that every music student practices, so that now any conservatory orchestra can give a fleet and spiffy performance of what used to stump their elders, and professional orchestras can play it in their sleep, and often do…”

Music Played in Today's Program

Igor Stravinsky The Rite of Spring Cleveland Orchestra; Pierre Boulez, cond. DG 435 769

Additional Information

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