As stand-alone concert piece, ‘Rite’ a modern classic

Posted on: September 17, 2012

In Sunday’s (9/16) New York Times, Richard Taruskin writes, “ ‘The Rite of Spring,’ or ‘Le Sacre du Printemps,’ Igor Stravinsky’s historic shocker, a ballet that shows and celebrates a remorseless human sacrifice, will be 100 years old next May. … In stark contrast to its present-day lionization, it was a spectacular flop at its first showing, by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. … But it was not Stravinsky’s music that did the shocking. It was the ugly earthbound lurching and stomping devised by Vaslav Nijinsky.” Stravinsky feared a career-ending fiasco “until April 1914, when the score was rescued by a concert performance under Pierre Monteux, who had conducted the drowned-out premiere. … Audible at last in all its shattering glory, unencumbered by Nijinsky’s grating visuals, it earned Stravinsky what he called ‘a triumph such as composers rarely enjoy.’ After this vindication ‘The Rite’ began to make its way, not as a shocker but as a modern classic. … Stravinsky gave permission to detach the work from its subject when he wrote, in a late memoir, that seeing Diaghilev’s post-Nijinsky revival, ‘I realized then that I prefer ‘Le Sacre’ as a concert piece.’ That is how the New York Philharmonic will celebrate it on Thursday, as will the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Sept. 28.”

Posted September 17, 2012