The Rite of Spring
Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method
Duration: About 35 Minutes
Time of Creation: 1913
World Premiere: May 29, 1913 (Paris)
Table of Contents
Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in 5 Sentences
The Rite of Spring (Original: Le Sacre du Printemps) is the third major ballet score (along with Firebird and Petrushka) by Igor Stravinsky, and at its premiere it caused one of the biggest theater scandals to date: shocked by the rawness of the music and staging (see the “Highlights” below), the Paris premiere audience erupted in rioting, including booing and brawling. Lights had to be turned on during the performance to somehow bring order to the chaos. Only the premiere conductor Pierre Monteux appeared unimpressed by all this, conducting the work to its conclusion with stoic calm. The scandal hit Stravinsky hard, but also made him finally world famous.
4 Highlights from Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring
Highlight 1: Beginning – a bassoon discovers the heights
The very beginning caused irritation among the Paris premiere audience: A bassoon PLAYING SO HIGH had never been heard before:
Highlight 2: The Augurs of Spring
Aaaaaah, spring! First rays of sunshine, gentle warmth! What an idyll!
Well, not here. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is about the FORCE of spring. Nature bursts forth, and we can hear it clearly. By the way, at the premiere, the choreography of this number consisted of stomping wildly (which contributed significantly to the shocked audience reaction):
Highlight 3: Dance of the Earth
The first part of the ballet ends with the Dance of the Earth, famous for its “demolished climax” and the oppressive silence that follows:
Highlight 4: Sacrificial Dance
The most famous part of The Rite of Spring is the finale. This sacrificial dance is one of the most pithy pieces I know, and places the highest demands on orchestra and conductor:
3 Questions and Answers about Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring
Question 1: How did people react to Igor Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring?
Reactions to The Rite of Spring ranged from booing to loud protest rallies to beatings.
Question 2: Is The Rite of Spring significant in the history of music?
The Rite of Spring is now considered one of the most significant pieces for music history. Stravinsky brought so much that was new (especially in terms of rhythm and timbre) that the piece was influential for many generations of composers to come.
Question 3: Who premiered The Rite of Spring?
The first performance featured the Ballets Russes, one of the most important ballet ensembles of the 20th century.