When Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring first assaulted the senses, it was considered virtually impossible to perform. It was even a major challenge to virtuoso orchestras back then. However, it has now become a traditional test of an orchestra’s mettle, within the capabilities of any professional orchestra. Written for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company, this ballet and orchestral concert work contains many novel features for its time, notably the experiments in tonality, metre, rhythm, stress and dissonance. Stravinsky had denied what the analysts noted about the score, that it contains a significant grounding in Russian folk music.
Part I: L’Adoration de la Terre (Adoration of the Earth)
Introduction (Introduction) – The orchestra introduces the beginning before the curtain rises, in what Stravinsky noted as resembling “a swarm of spring pipes”.
Les Augures printaniers (Augurs of Spring) – The celebration of spring begins in the hills. An old woman enters and foretells the future.
Jeu du rapt (Ritual of Abduction) – Young girls arrive from the river in single file. They begin the “Dance of the Abduction”.
Rondes printanières (Spring Rounds) – The young girls continue with the Khorovod dance “Spring Rounds”.
Jeux des cités rivals (Ritual of the Rival Tribes) – The people divide into two groups in opposition to each other, and begin the “Ritual of the Rival Tribes”.
Cortège du sage: Le Sage (Procession of the Sage: The Sage) – A holy procession leads to the entry of the wise elders, headed by the Sage who brings the games to a pause and blesses the earth.
Danse de la terre (Dance of the Earth) – The people break into a passionate dance, sanctifying and becoming one with the Earth.
Part II: Le Sacrifice (The Sacrifice)
Introduction (Introduction) – In a mysterious, expectant pre-dawn, the Earth breathes in slumber. Wisps of melody begin to coalesce as shadowy figures assemble.
Cercles mystérieux des adolescents (Mystic Circles of the Young Girls) – The young girls engage in mysterious games, walking in circles.
Glorification de l’élue (Glorification of the Chosen One) – One of the young girls is selected by fate, being twice caught in the perpetual circle, and is honoured as the “Chosen One” with a martial dance.
Evocation des ancêtres (Evocation of the Ancestors) – In a brief dance, the young girls invoke the ancestors.
Action rituelle des ancêtres (Ritual Action of the Ancestors) – The Chosen One is entrusted to the care of the wise, old men.
Danse sacrale (L’Élue) (Sacrificial Dance) – In the great “Sacrificial Dance”, the Chosen One dances to death in the presence of the old men.
- Stravinsky has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- Towards the end of his life, he became especially fond of the Scrabble game.
- Delivered several lectures at Harvard University
- Stravinsky’s father was a singer with the Imperial Orchestra, and his mother was a skilled pianist.
- The premiere of Rite of Spring was met with a protest from the audience. It was so loud that it drowned out the music.
Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle
Recorded at the Barbican Centre in 2017