One hundred and four years ago, on May 29, 1913, Russian composer Igor Stravinsky debuted The Rite of Spring Ballet in a theater in Paris, a performance whose reception by the audience will always be remembered as the most violent in music history.
In 2017, this ballet is still considered to be a "seminal work of modernism -- a frenetic, jagged orchestral ballet that boldly rejected the ordered harmonies and comfort of traditional composition."
This music left its mark on jazz, minimalism, and other contemporary movements, even art, but to those who watched the performance a little more than a century ago, it was truly scandalous. This ballet was described by Weymouth as "one of the great aesthetic monuments of Western art -- completely assured, startlingly original, brutal, tender, and altogether wonderful." Like Stravinsky's earlier works for the Ballet Russes, The Rite of Spring was inspired by Russian culture, yet, unlike them, it challenged the audience with its chaotic percussive momentum.
[Igor Stravinsky's grandson, John, was in my mother's second grade class at Leal Elementary school in Urbana, Illinois, the home of the University of Illinois. My school was about six blocks from the sprawling campus. He was son of Soulima (Igor's son), who was a professor of composition at the University of Illinois.
My mother always came home with interesting stories about all of her charges, but she particularly liked Johnny Stravinsky. He early on gravitated away from music towards sports; indeed, he is now, 62 years later, recognized all over the world as a sports writer.
One day, young Stravinsky approached my mother and told her that Sir Thomas Beecham, Conductor of both the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonice Orchestras, at that point, probably about 77 years old, was coming to their house for the weekend as a guest, and would she like to come and sleep with him? Of course, an innocent young child who was thinking more of a sleepover, at the age when kids had slumber parties and pillow fights. Everyone got a big laugh out of that one....]
Here is a photo essay on Stravinsky's progeny, including John:
The Joffrey's 1987 performances were painstakingly reconstructed from Nijinksky's 1912 -1913 original notes, and are a brilliant cinematic accomplishment!
Joffrey Ballet 1987 Rite of Spring (1 of 3)
Joffrey Ballet 1987 Rite of Spring (2 of 3)
Joffrey Ballet 1987 Rite of Spring (3 of 3)