Performance | The Rite of Spring | Modern Era | Classical
Stravinsky’s third ballet for Diaghilev was no piece of naive primitivism: he worked painstakingly with an expert on ancient Slavonic customs, Nikolay Roerich, to ensure the scenario’s ethnographic accuracy, and worked a number of published folk melodies into the score. Of those many already embodied the irregularities of metre and accentuation that The Rite exploits to such violent and ultimately explosive effect. Harmonically, too, the score was Stravinsky’s most complex to date, its pounding, dissonant chordal complexes created from the superimposition of distantly related triads and seventh chords. The score itself, as well as the production, elicited strong reactions. Pierre Lalo wrote of Stravinsky that ‘nobody has practised the system and cult of the false note with so much ambition, zeal and sourness of temper’. Debussy, on the other hand, confessed to being ‘dumbfounded, overwhelmed by the hurricane that had come from the depths of the ages and taken life by the roots’.
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