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The Rite of Spring: 100th Birthday Celebration

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The link that was posted in another forum to a discussion with Doug Fullington about the ballet also has a great interview with Jon Kimura Parker who plays the work as a solo pianist. He had several very witty things to say about the challenges in the work here (it's after the interview with Fullington -- sorry I don't know the exact location)

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Doug Fullington's segment ended at 36:12-ish. There's about 15 minutes worth of discussion and interviews on "The Rite of Spring" preceding Doug's segment as well. Right before Doug's is an interview with Seth Krimsky, Principal Bassoonist of Seattle Symphony.

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Bard's Music Festival focused on Stravinsky. From the website:

Bard SummerScape 2013 presents seven inspired weeks of opera, music, theater, dance, film, and cabaret. The hub of these offerings is the 24th annual Bard Music Festival, this year examining the life, work, and cultural milieu of the 20th-century Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. From ballet to chamber works, from sacred music to symphonies, the festival will explore Stravinsky’s long and illustrious career, along with many works by his contemporaries. Other highlights of the season include Sergey Taneyev’s Oresteia, an opera based on Aeschylus’ tragic Greek trilogy; a collaboration by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company celebrating Stravinsky’sThe Rite of Spring; a theatrical adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita; an adventurous film festival; and the return of cabaret at the Spiegeltent. It all adds up to a festival like no other—SummerScape 2013.

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I get a daily excerpt from a non-fiction listserv -- today it's from Harold C. Schonberg's Lives of the Great Composers, about Stravinsky and the premiere of Sacre.

"In today's encore selection - the most famous scandal in the history of classical music was the premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps). The boldness of Stravinsky's work stood in intriguing juxtaposition against the fastidiousness of his work habits:

"All the excitement [of Igor Stravinsky's early career] was nothing against the impact of Le Sacre du printemps, which had its premiere on May 29, 1913 [when he was thirty]. Stravinsky had conceived the idea for it while working on Firebird. 'I dreamed of a scene of pagan ritual in which a chosen sacrificial virgin danced herself to death.' Work on Le Sacre was dropped for Petrushka, but Stravinsky soon resumed work on the new ballet. (He has said that The Coronation of Spring would be closer to his original meaning than the usual translation, The Rite of Spring.) Vaslav Nijinsky was the choreographer, and the premiere resulted in the most famous scandale in the history of music. Hardly anybody in the audience was prepared for
a score of such dissonance and ferocity, such complexity and such rhythmic oddity.

"Nobody connected with the produc­tion had the faintest idea that the music would provoke a visceral reaction. As soon as the bassoon ended its phrase in the high register, at the very opening of the ballet, laughter broke out. Soon there were whistles and catcalls. Nobody could hear the music. Diaghilev had the electricians switch the house lights off and on, in an effort to restore order. Nijinsky, in the wings, yelled the rhythms to the dancers. The Comtesse de Pourtales stood in her box, brandishing her fan, and shouted: 'This is the first time in sixty years that anybody has dared make fun of me.' People hurled insults at each other. The Apaches, [a musical school of thought] headed by Ravel, shrieked their praise.
Stravinsky himself, in his Expositions and Developments, has described the famous evening at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees:

"Mild protests against the music could be heard from the very beginning of the performance. Then, when the curtain opened ... the storm broke. Cries of 'Ta gueule' (shut up!) came from behind me. I heard Florent Schmitt shout 'Taisez-vouz garces du seizieme' (be quiet, bitches of the sixteenth!); the 'garces' of the sixteenth arondissement were, of course, the most elegant ladies in Paris. The uproar continued, however, and a few minutes later I left the hall in a rage; I was sitting on the right near the orchestra, and I remember slamming the door. I have never again been that angry. The music was familiar to me; I loved it, and I could not understand why people who had not yet heard it wanted to protest in advance. I arrived in a fury backstage,
where I saw Diaghilev flicking the house lights in a last effort to quiet the hall. For the rest of the performance I stood in the wings behind Nijinsky holding the tails of his frac while he stood on a chair shouting numbers to the dancers like a coxswain.

"[Yet] everything about Stravinsky pointed to an intellectual tidiness, and that included his work habits. Those were tidy to the point of compulsion. In 1916, the Swiss writer C. F. Ramuz, who was working with Stravinsky on L'Histoire du soldat, looked at Stravinsky's work table and marveled:

"Stravinsky's scores are magnificent. He is above all (in all matters and in every sense of the word) a calligrapher. . . . His writing desk resembled a surgeon's instru­ment case. Bottles of different colored inks in their ordered hierarchy each had a separate part to play in the ordering of his art. Near at hand were india-rubbers of various kinds and shapes, and all sorts of glittering steel implements: rulers, erasers, pen-knives, and a roulette instrument for drawing staves, invented by Stravinsky himself. One was reminded of the definition of St. Thomas: beauty is the splendor of order. All the large pages of the score were filled with writing in different colored inks-blue, green, red, two kinds of black (ordinary and Chinese), each having its purpose, its meaning, its special use: one for the notes, another the text, a third the translation; one for titles, another for the musical directions.
Meanwhile the bar lines were ruled, and the mistakes carefully erased."

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Reviewing a concert by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, James R. Oestreich of the NY Times speculates that Sacre led to to Bugaku:

Mr. Oue and the orchestra offered an attractive, colorful program, which, in addition to Stravinsky’s “Rite,” itself not far from its centennial last year, included Japanese works of the 20th century if not of the moment: Toshiro Mayuzumi’s “Bugaku,” commissioned for a ballet by George Balanchine, which had its premiere in New York in 1963 (not regarded as one of Balanchine’s best); and Kiyoshige Koyama’s “Kobiki-Uta,” based on the traditional “Wood Cutter’s Song,” which had its premiere in 1957.
Of particular interest in this context was the degree to which either of these works might have drawn any of its impulses from “The Rite of Spring,” the way so many Western works did throughout the 20th century. And Mr. Mayuzumi, especially, showed the influence toward the end of his work, with raw brutality and pounding rhythms.

I’m listening to Bugaku on Spotify as I write, and I can’t decide if I like it or if, heard apart from the ballet I like very much, it’s just exotic (now there’s a dated word as applied to the East) bombast – bombastic kitsch. According to classical.net, Mayuzumi is “probably is Japan's most famous classical composer.” Anyhow, Oesterich’s question is interesting. What Wikipedia says is that Mauzumi was especially interested in Varese, and that he composed more than one hundred film scores. That last is not surprising.

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