Showcase March-April 2015 - page 53

imprint his sacred kiss on the new- owering earth. During
this rite the crowd is seized with a mystic terror.
“After this uprush of terrestrial joy, the second scene sets
a celestial mystery before us. Young virgins dance on the
sacred hill amid enchanted rocks; they choose the victim
they intend to honor. In a moment she will dance her
last dance before the ancients clad in bearskins to show
that the bear was man’s ancestor. Then the greybeards
dedicate the victim to the god Yarilo.”
This story of violence and nature-worship in pagan
Russia—inspired in part by Stravinsky’s boyhood
memories of the thunderous break-up of the ice on the
Neva River in St. Petersburg each spring—became a ballet
in two parts,
The Adoration of the Earth
The Sacri ce
ancient and modern
In the music, Stravinsky drew on the distant past and
fused it with the modern. His themes, many adapted
from ancient Lithuanian wedding tunes, are brief, of
narrow compass, and based on the constantly changing
meters of Russian folk music, yet his harmonic language
can be ercely dissonant and “modern,” particularly in
the famous repeating chord in
Dance of the Adolescents
where he superimposes an E- at major chord (with added
seventh) on top of an F- at major chord. Even more
striking is the rhythmic imagination that animates this
score: Stravinsky himself confessed that parts were so
complicated that while he could play them, he could not
write them down.
And beyond all these,
The Rite of Spring
is founded on an
incredible orchestral sense: from the eerie sound of the
high solo bassoon at the beginning through its use of a
massive percussion section and such unusual instruments
as alto ute and piccolo trumpet (not to mention the
eight horns, two tubas and quadruple woodwinds), this
score rings with sounds never heard before. The premiere
may have provoked a noisy riot, but at a more civilized
level it had an even greater impact: no music written after
May 29, 1913, would ever be the same.
the adoration of the earth
is scored almost exclusively for
woodwinds: from the famous opening bassoon solo
through its intricately twisting woodwind gures, the
music suggests the wriggling of insects as they unfold
and come to life in the spring thaw. This is suddenly
interrupted by
Dance of the Adolescents
, driven along by
stamping, dissonant chords and off-the-beat accents.
The Mock Abduction
, full of horn calls and furious
rhythmic energy, rides a quiet trill into
Rounds of Spring
where together the E- at and bass clarinets outline the
haunting principal melody, another theme Stravinsky
derived from ancient folk music. Deep string chords
(which in the ballet accompany the male dancers’ lifting
the girls onto their backs) soon build to a cataclysmic
climax full of the sound of tam-tam and trombone
glissandos. The return of the wistful opening melody
rounds this section off quietly, but that calm is annihilated
by the timpani salvos and snarling low brass of
Games of
the Rival Cities
. The eight horns ring out splendidly here,
and the music rushes ahead to the brief
Procession of the
Wise Elder
and then to one of the eeriest moments in the
Adoration of the Earth
. Only four measures long,
this concludes with an unsettling chord for eleven solo
strings, all playing harmonics, as the Wise Elder bends to
kiss the earth. The music explodes, and
Dance of the Earth
races to the conclusion of the ballet’s rst half.
the sacrifice
The second part of the work might be thought of as
a gradual crescendo of excitement. It moves from a
misty beginning (an inspiration to generations of lm
composers) to the exultant fury of the concluding
Sacri cial Dance
. Along the way come such distinctive
moments as the solo for alto ute in
Mysterious Circles of
Young Girls
, where the sacri cial maiden will be chosen;
the violently pounding 11/4 measure that thrusts the
music into
Glori cation of the Chosen One
; the nodding,
bobbing bassoons that herald
Evocation of the Ancestors
(another folk-derived theme of constricted range yet of
great metric variety);and the shrieking horns of
Ritual of
the Ancestors
A solitary bass clarinet plunges us into the
Sacri cial
, whose rhythmic complexity has become legendary:
this was the section that Stravinsky could play but at rst
not write down, and in 1943 (30 years after composing
this music) he went back and rebarred it in the effort to
make it easier for performers. This music is dauntingly
“black” on the page, with its furious energy, its quite short
(and constantly changing) bar lengths and its gathering
excitement. It dances its way to a delicate violin trill, and
The Rite of Spring
concludes with the brutal chord that
marks the climactic moment of sacri ce.
3 utes, alto ute, piccolo
(1 ute doubling piccolo), 4 oboes, English horn
(1 oboe doubling English horn), 3 clarinets, bass clarinet
(1 clarinet doubling bass clarinet), E- at clarinet,
4 bassoons, contrabassoon (1 bassoon doubling
contrabassoon), 8 horns (2 doubling tenor Wagner
tuben), 4 trumpets, (1 doubling bass trumpet),
piccolo trumpet, 3 trombones, 2 tubas,
antique cymbals in B- at/A- at, cymbals, bass drum,
guiro, tam-tam, tambourine, triangle and strings
Program note by
Eric Bromberger
23, 24
Program Notes
1...,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51,52 54,55,56,57,58,59,60,61,62,63,...64
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