This ain’t your grandma’s ballet.

Editor’s Note: The following contribution is a guest post by UR undergraduate James Fong, who is a Student Assistant working at Parsons Music Library. Thanks, James, for the insights on the in-famous work of Igor Stravinksy!

Ever see a ballet that made you want to riot? If that sounds strange, that’s because it is. The brainchild of composer Igor Stravinsky and impresario Sergei Diaghilev, The Rite of Spring caused its audience members to do just that.

Prior to May 29, 1913, ballet was a rather docile thing. From its first beginnings in Renaissance Italy as a courtly activity for the aristocracy, to its transformation as a formalized discipline involving grace and technique by the late 19th century, ballet was fairly content with itself.
There would be an added creative wrinkle here or there (poses, costumes, etc.), but its fashionability in the day gave it no reason to revolutionize itself.
Then May 29, 1913 happened.

“The theater resembled a prison yard: shouting, howling whistling, slapping, punching.”

“A beautifully dressed lady in an orchestra box stood up and slapped the face of a young man who was hissing in the next box. Her escort arose, and cards were exchanged between the men. A duel followed next day.”

480 px width, cropped version of original by Flickr poster "Piano Piano!"

Sacre du Printemps – London Philharmonic Orchestra

“Exactly what I wanted.” – Diaghilev

That is only a microcosm of the reception of a ballet centered around the creative forces of Spring. That and a sacrificial virgin dancing herself to death to appease the god of that very season.

Set in pagan Russia, The Rite was, for all intents and purposes, an uncontrolled experiment in music and dance. Musically, Stravinsky pushed the limits of meter, tonality, and dissonance, which must have caused quite some discomfort for an audience raised on formal music from the glory days of the Common Practice Period. Meanwhile, Nijinsky’s choreography blew the doors off of anything that had preceded it. Angular, violent, and downright convulsive, it was as much a powder keg as the score. So much so that Nijinsky’s choreography was scrapped from 1920 until its resurrection by the Joffrey Ballet in Los Angeles in 1987.

Despite its beginnings in obscurity (at best), or disaster (at worst), The Rite – particularly the score – has since emerged as an enormous commercial and artistic success, lending credibility to the Russian ballet scene, even being featured in Walt Disney’s color trick film, Fantasia. That being said…
Read up on the mayhem, witness the performances, and explore Stravinsky’s other (equally chaotic) works at Parsons Music Library, located on the second floor of Booker Hall. We hope you’ll be better behaved than the original audience.

photo credit

New CD’s added this week!

5/28/2014

Classical

Berio – Chamber Music
Peter Serkin – Beethoven Sonatas

Instrumental

Michael Daugherty – American Icons

Jazz

John Coltrane – Africa/Brass
Donald Byrd – Early Byrd

Pop/Rock

Foy Vance – Joy of Nothing
Bruce Springsteen – Human Torch
Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town

Soul Music

Allen Toussaint – What is Success: The Scepter and Bell Recordings
Charles Wright – Express yourself the best of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
Gladys Knight – The very best of Gladys Knight & the Pips : the early years

Soundtracks/Film Music

Various – BaadAsssss Cinema (The Sounds of Blaxploitation)
Various – The Best of Blaxploitation

Hear and see our own Richuan Hu in action!

Editor’s update (1/17/13): Here is video of our student assistant, Ruiquan (Richuan) Hu performing with the UR Orchestra last semester. Bravo, Richuan!

As a part of the upcoming concerto performance that features the Music Library’s own Richuan Hu, we’d like to present a previous blog submission that Richuan wrote about his thoughts on studying a famous piano work by Franz Liszt. Please come out to the UR Orchestra concert on Wednesday, December 5 at 7:30pm in Camp Concert Hall, so you can hear Richuan in action as he performs the first piano concerto by Chopin. Richuan is the winner of the 2012 concerto competition!

UR orchestra and Richuan Hu

UR orchestra and Richuan Hu


 

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