Thursday, May 27, 2010

Art of Listening Concert Review: Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring

The concert I attended was the Philadelphia Orchestra's Beyond the Score presentation of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
The concert I heard was Orchestra music.
This concert took place on Thursday, April 8th at 7 p.m.
The concert was held in Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center.

Initially, I was going to post my concert review for this show, but then I realized that my work on that extra credit assignment sucked. I highly recommend checking out these Beyond The Score presentations. My explanation cannot do justice to the intricate imagery and timing involved in the video presentation with narration and teasing of musical ideas in this show. The presentation explained all about Stravinsky's piece from the pagan mythology that provides programmatic context for the music to the foreign sounds of Russian folk music (with live demonstrations of the folk instruments) to what Stravinsky sought to convey with his expansions of dissonance and rhythmic possibility. My summary cannot convey the sensory overload that Beyond The Score provided.

Since I can't explain much about the experience, here's a few facts about how awesome Igor Stravinsky is that I think fit well in my narrative about music.

In 1913, the Rite of Spring premiered in Paris with a rioting audience reacting to its extreme dissonances and rhythm irregularities. Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of the riots and the program notes behind the piece. In Le Sacre du Printemps, Stravinsky "stripped folk themes to their most basic melodic outlines, and often contorted them beyond recognition."

This photo is a drawing Picasso did of Stravinsky when they collaborated on Pulcinella in 1920.

Despite the pagan themes of Rite of Spring, Stravinsky was a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church all throughout his life, remarking at one time, 

"Music praises God. Music is well or better able to praise him than the building of the church and all its decoration; it is the Church's greatest ornament."
 "All the signs indicate a strong reaction against the nightmare of noise and eccentricity that was one of the legacies of the war.... What has become of the works that made up the program of the Stravinsky concert which created such a stir a few years ago? Practically the whole lot are already on the shelf, and they will remain there until a few jaded neurotics once more feel a desire to eat ashes and fill their belly with the east wind." 
-Jean Cocteau on The Rite of Spring in Musical Times 1923

In 1935, American composer Marc Blitzstein stated, 
"There is no denying the greatness of Stravinsky. It is just that he is not great enough." 

Blitzstein's position was that Stravinsky's wish was to 
"divorce music from other streams of life," 
which is 
"symptomatic of an escape from reality", 
resulting in a 
"loss of stamina in his new works."

In 1940, Igor Stravinsky re-orchestrated 
"The Star Spangled Banner" 
for the Boston Symphony. 

Someone alerted the Boston police, who arrived at Symphony Hall, confiscated the instrumental parts to the Stravinsky orchestration and 
arrested Stravinsky for...

"tampering with public property."

Sound familiar?

The next Beyond the Score presentation at the Kimmel Center will be Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition on Thursday June 03, 2010 at 7 PM.