As “Rite” turns 100, can classical music still shock?

Posted on: May 2, 2013

An item Monday (4/29) on the WQXR Blog states, “On May 29, 1913, the Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring provoked a riot: whistling and booing, catcalls and fisticuffs overran the performance and the police were called in to quiet the angry crowd. It became one of the most celebrated scandals in music history. Today, The Rite of Spring is practically an audience favorite and rioting in concert halls is unthinkable. But is this a good thing? Does classical music need more shock value, more scandals? In his latest column for BBC Music Magazine, music critic Richard Morrison argues that classical music needs more Rite-style uproar. ‘Never in my 30 years as a critic have I witnessed that kind of reaction,’ Morrison tells host Naomi Lewin in this podcast. ‘It just struck me that maybe we’re a bit too polite these days and composers aren’t provoking us enough.’ … Leon Botstein, the music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and president of Bard College, believes the reason audiences were shocked by the Rite of Spring was a sense of ownership over a received musical language. Classical music signaled respectability to audiences ‘and these young composers were sticking their proverbial finger in their eye.’ ” The item includes a poll with the question “Can Classical Music Shock?” Read Donald Rosenberg’s take on the Rite centennial in the Spring 2013 issue Symphony.


Posted May 2, 2013