The Rite of Spring
Anyone looking for an open entry point into the sounds of musical modernism should head for Stravinsky’s early ballet scores. The Rite of Spring turns 100 this May. Its first performance, created by Sergey Diaghilev’s pioneering Ballets Russes at the new Théâtre des Champs Elysées in 1913, outraged its upper-crust customers, there to admire Nijinsky and Karsavina drift through Les Sylphides. Parisian wits described the audience riot, Nijinsky’s genuinely strange choreography and the Rite‘s rough performance as “Le Massacre du printemps“. Later, the work became a concert staple and entered popular culture, thanks to Disney’s Fantasia. Stravinsky himself downplayed the score’s folkloric connections, although recent studies show that several of its prominent melodies derive from ancient Russian ones.
London Philharmonic Orchestra; Yannick Nézet-Séguin;Royal Festival Hall; 16 Feb 2013, 7.30pm
Nikolai Gogol’s novella Taras Bulba, part historical romance, part nationalist thesis, describes Cossack courage in battle against