Conducted by Andrés Orozco-Estrada, the hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra) performs Igor Stravinsky‘s “The Rite of Spring” (French: Le Sacre du Printemps), a ballet and orchestral concert work, which was written for the 1913 Paris season of the Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company.
Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
The work was first performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées Paris on 29 May 1913, with original choreography by the Russian ballet dancer and choreographer of Polish descent Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950) and stage designs and costumes by the Russian painter, writer, archaeologist, theosophist Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947).
Stravinsky was a young, virtually unknown composer when Diaghilev recruited him to create works for the Ballets Russes. The Rite was the third such project, after the acclaimed Firebird (1910) and Petrushka (1911). The concept behind The Rite of Spring, developed by Roerich from Stravinsky’s outline idea, is suggested by its subtitle, “Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts”; in the scenario, after various primitive rituals celebrating the advent of spring, a young girl is chosen as a sacrificial victim and dances herself to death.
“The Rite of Spring” is divided into two parts: “The Adoration of the Earth” and “The Sacrifice.” The music is characterized by its complex rhythms, dissonant harmonies, and its use of folk-inspired themes. Stravinsky’s innovative scoring called for a large orchestra, utilizing a wide range of instruments to create a rich tapestry of sound that was unprecedented at the time.
The ballet’s narrative is based on pagan rituals and tells the story of a young girl who is chosen as a sacrificial victim and dances herself to death. Its premiere caused a sensation, famously leading to a near-riot in the audience, partly due to the avant-garde nature of both the music and the choreography. The discordant rhythms and harsh dissonances were a stark departure from the traditional, more melodic ballet music of the era.
Over time, “The Rite of Spring” has come to be regarded as a landmark piece that heralded the arrival of modernism in music. Its influence is vast, extending beyond the realms of ballet and classical music into jazz, rock, and film scores. The piece remains a staple in the repertoire of orchestras worldwide and continues to be celebrated for its groundbreaking approach to rhythm, tonality, and orchestral color. Stravinsky’s work not only redefined the possibilities of orchestral music but also fundamentally altered the course of 20th-century music, challenging and expanding the boundaries of artistic expression.
The Rite of Spring: Structure and Synopsis
- Introduction (Introduction) Before the curtain rises, an orchestral introduction resembles, according to Stravinsky, “a swarm of spring pipes”.
- Les Augures Printaniers (Augurs of Spring) The celebration of spring begins in the hills. An old woman enters and begins to foretell 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 dance the Khorovod, the “Spring Rounds”.
- Jeux des cités rivales (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.
- The Rite of Spring on Wikipedia
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