Igor Stravinsky
Le Sacre du printemps


5.0
classic

Review

by Jake C. Taylor USER (90 Reviews)
August 10th, 2008 | 158 replies


Release Date: 1913 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Still contemporary.

In his attempt to continue to represent his fascination with Slavic folklore, Igor Stravinsky premiered his third successive ballet, Le Sacre du printemps (more commonly referred by its English translation “The Rite of Spring”) in the late spring of 1913. Like The Firebird and Petrushka ballets before it, Rite is founded upon the neoclassical terrain that was still fairly early in formation during the early part of the 20th century. In these two works, Stravinsky began distancing himself from conservative musical understandings, creating new inventions to express his colourful atonal aspirations. His radical innovations led to new ideas sprouting into improvements on the quality of dissonance and rhythm combined.

His experimentations eventually paved the way to his preliminary sketches for Rite on the pianoforte. Simply how one could possibly condense such a large scale of compositional material into one instrument is still beyond many. The backbone vertebrae (girders, if you like) are made of melodic asymmetry (micro and macro), colourful accentuation and articulation (melodic and harmonic), and complex rhythmical fluctuations. All of these ideas were already tried and tested in former works by others, but in a conservative fashion. Here, Stravinsky uses them as the sole chassis for work, setting it apart from all other investigations thus far. Despite its apparent intense complexity, Rite is completely listenable, and not as mechanical as its score sometimes suggests.

In two parts, the score delves between dense and sparse orchestration. Unlike many other works for large orchestra, Stravinsky uses each instrument from its lowest to highest range, and plays with the instrumentalist’s skill from undemanding melodies, to obscure cross hashes of polyrhythms. The first part “Adoration of the Earth” initiates the work through an ominous bassoon melody, which he returns to on many occasions throughout the number. It’s fairly simple, yet distinct, and clear amid the clouded accompaniment of dissonant layers from other instruments. The introduction, which lasts a little under four minutes, could be sampled as what the rest of Rite offers in terms of surprise and joy. However, as the lasting plucked notes of the violins stretch to a point of uncertainty, the full orchestra engages in a violent mash of heavy off-beat brass accentuation, known as “Dance of the Adolescents”. From here the score flows in and out of remaining ideas which were first introduced in the introduction, but they are presented alongside clever accompaniment to maintain a devout interest from the audience, giving a more subdued quality, before returning to percussive chaos, back again to beauty and so forth.

While nowadays we can comfortably denote that Rite is impressive in both its composition and style, back in 1913 during its premiere, many of the revolutionary ideas were swallowed with bitter reluctance. It only took the opening notes from the bassoon to dishearten attendees (even some renowned composers), some leaving before anything had even begun. It’s somewhat of a good thing they did. Barely into the performance, had the audience completely polarised between admiration and hatred for the work. Fistfights endured in walkways, demoralizing verbal remarks were exchanged between members in the box houses, leading to Stravinsky fleeing for his safety amid the riot. Never had such an event given way to such public disapproval, both emotionally and physically. Although the audience was having its own ‘performance’ at the time, the orchestra and dance act maintained their presentation, only ceasing between movements.

By the time the performers arrived at the second part, the audience had managed to be restrained to allow seamless continuation. The second section itself, “The Sacrifice” is no less enjoyable then the first. Similarly it makes use of distinct symmetrical melodies and asymmetrical rhythm. They are used in such a way that maintains the desires of each sense (auditory, and visual). Unlike many ballets of the time, Rite was intended to reflect the primitivist style of a pagan ritual. Thus, the music is accompanied by a similar designed ballet performance. One performer is quoted as saying Vaslav Nijinsky's shocking choreography was physically unnatural to perform.” Most ballets require the dancers to flow with grace, curvature and elegance – Rite on the other hand scraps most of this convention for contrasting, yet still complimenting choreography.

The Rite of Spring tested the future path of 20th century classical music, and in many ways caused music to deviate its course toward more experimentation from many other composers. While alone its influence designates it as one of the best works to have originated out of this era, the composition alone makes for one of the most intriguing listens of all music. It was further popularised through its fluid adaptation to prehistoric life in Disney’s 1940 Fantasia, and unlike other works, somehow manages to keep its beautiful array of melody, jarring intensity and control by always reminding the audience that its still contemporary and original to this day, for the children watching Fantasia, and the adults who manage to witness the work in its intended place of performance.



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user ratings (146)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
fireaboveicebelow
August 10th 2008


6837 Comments


Super review, I just got this on vinyl

taylormemer
August 10th 2008


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks. I've been studying the score for this for about three months now, as well as the solo piano version, which is almost inhuman at how difficult it is.

taylormemer
August 10th 2008


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Safe? Perhaps in today's, climate, but you still rarely witness similar approaches to pushing limits.

robin
Emeritus
August 10th 2008


4249 Comments


looks nice but i still have to get through the rest of the stuff you said first. :/

taylormemer
August 10th 2008


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

^^
Petrushka and The Firebird?

robin
Emeritus
August 10th 2008


4249 Comments


oh no, i'm working through some of the stuff you rec'd on a list of mine ages ago, you know that HUGE list of your own basically.

but you make this sound nicer :pThis Message Edited On 08.10.08

taylormemer
August 10th 2008


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ah yes, indeed. I forgot about that.
This is wonderful, and even better if you've grown up with it, as I have through watching Fantasia.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2008


15740 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks for listening to me, mr taylor.

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

taylormemer
August 10th 2008


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

You're welcome.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2008


15740 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

If you ever do an album with Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time on it, we will have to become best friends.

taylormemer
August 10th 2008


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'll look into it.

Kage
August 10th 2008


1172 Comments


impressive review

joshuatree
Emeritus
August 10th 2008


3742 Comments


very good review

bustyagunz
August 10th 2008


911 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Igor is boss

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2009


15740 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this album has the highest rating in all of sputnik

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2009


15044 Comments


album is face

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2010


15740 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

absolutely a 5, can't deny it anymore

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2010


10460 Comments


hipster as fuck

Digging: Cymbals Eat Guitars - LOSE

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2010


15044 Comments


dont stop make it pop

Ghostechoes
March 28th 2010


1353 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The Works of Igor Stravinsky box set is amazing, 22 CDs of excellence in composition.



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