Inside the Houston Symphony

Taking you behind the music–one concert at a time!

From Spring Riot to Summer Quiet

with one comment

Russian composer Igor Stravinsky is arguably the most important composer of the 20th century. Not only were his ideas new, complex and impressive to all who heard them, but his legacy as a musical risk-taker even landed him a spot as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of the century.

This weekend in our 2009-10 Classical Season Finale, Maestro Graf leads the Orchestra in one of Stravinsky’s most notorious compositions – The Rite of Spring. Written for the famous company Ballet Russes, The Rite of Spring has a dramatic history connected to its 1913 premiere in Paris – a riot ensued as soon as the music began, halting the performance and cementing the event as one of classical music’s most unforgettable.

Of the event, Philip Glass wrote for TIME Magazine in 1998, “Trouble began with the playing of the first notes, in the ultrahigh register of the bassoon, as the renowned composer Camille Saint-Saens conspicuously walked out, complaining loudly of the misuse of the instrument. Soon other protests became so loud that the dancers could barely hear their cues. Fights broke out in the audience. Thus Modernism arrived in music, its calling card delivered by the 30-year-old Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.”

The theories floating around about the cause of the riot range from the story (pagan sacrifice), the ballet’s choreography (very suggestive), and the music itself (harsh, brutal rhythms, to be exact). Think of it as an early 20th century concert review that went terribly, terribly wrong. Who needs newspapers when you can throw punches? That was the rule of the day, after all.

Also on the program this weekend is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a piece feared by pianists, but highly respected among orchestras. Both “Rach 3” and The Rite of Spring remain incredibly popular to this day, although they are stylistically completely different.

As Maestro Graf said, The Rite of Spring is “one of the most glorious and powerful staples of every great orchestra’s repertoire.” Pair that with guest pianist Garrick Ohlsson’s tremendous energy, technique and amazing musicality and you are in for an adventurous evening in music.


Written by Melissa S.

May 19, 2010 at 11:11 am

One Response

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  1. I never thought you could associate the word “glorious” with “Stravinsky” but maybe that’s just my problem. There are few pieces of classical music I won’t listen to, but I will do my best to keep my resolution to never hear the Rite of Spring. I won’t let myself enjoy a piece of music about the sacrificial death of a young girl.

    But the Rachmaninoff was AMAZING!!! It made up for the fact that I only got half a concert!


    May 26, 2010 at 2:05 pm

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