The Rite of Spring
Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, premiered in May of 1913 in Paris, created a riot and ushered in a new musical language. As a major turning point in 20th century classical music, this piece should be a staple in the education of all classical musicians. For aspiring composers, in-depth knowledge of The Rite of Spring is essential.
Second Part: The Exalted Sacrifice (Seconde Partie: Le Sacrifice)
Though the melodies draw upon folk-like themes designed to evoke the feeling of songs passed down from ancient time, the only tune Stravinsky acknowledged to be directly drawn from previously existing folk melody is the opening, first heard played by the solo bassoon.
Recent scholars have discovered that quite a few of the melodies came from Russian folk tunes. Stravinsky did not acknowledge this "borrowing" in later times, since he was distancing himself from his country which was torn by revolution.
Stravinsky scored the instruments of the orchestra in unusual sounding registers in The Rite of Spring, often emulating the strained sounds of untrained village voices. An instance of this is heard in the very opening bassoon solo which reaches the highest notes of the instrument's range. The composer also called for instruments that, before The Rite of Spring, had rarely been scored for in orchestral music, including the alto flute, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, Wagner tuba, and güiro. The use of these instruments, combined with the aforementioned manipulation of instrumental registers, gave the piece a distinctive sound.
Stravinsky's music is harmonically adventurous, with prominent use of dissonance for the purposes of color and musical energy. Rhythmically, it is similarly adventurous, a number of sections having constantly changing time signatures and off-beat accents. Stravinsky used asymmetrical rhythms, percussive dissonance, polyrhythms, polytonality, layering of ostinati (persistently repeated ideas) and melodic fragments to create complex webs of interactive lines. An example of primitivism can be seen below (from the opening of the final section, the "Sacrificial Dance"):
Here is a spectacular performance by the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. The performance is divided into four videos. The total performance time is around 34 minutes. This performance is particularly valuable with its closeups of different instruments and a choreography of filming that is almost a ballet of the orchestra!
Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) MTT/SFS Part 1 of 4
Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) MTT/SFS Part 2 of 4
Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) MTT/SFS Part 3 of 4
Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) MTT/SFS Part 4 of 4
Here is another performance that is all in one video. Instead of shots of the orchestra, the video is composed of a few still photos. This one is best to listen to without watching. Performance time: 33' 17"
And finally, no listening page for The Rite of Spring would be complete without this masterpiece: