Inside the Houston Symphony

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

Posts Tagged ‘stravinsky

From Spring Riot to Summer Quiet

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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

Confessions of a gulit-ridden classical music lover

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Dear Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Stravinsky and all of the other great composer “Gods”:

I come to you a musical sinner. It has been … er… a while since my last confession.  I have sinned because I have listened to a variety of Top 40 radio stations every day for a really long time, and, well, um … I really like it.  I know, I know … I’m supposed to listen to NPR and know every symphony and opera and concerto ever performed on the face of the planet.  But I don’t because I’m too busy listening to today’s top hits.  I’m sorry … I guess.

But you have to understand, I just can’t tear myself away from it!  I have fond memories of rocking out to No Doubt as a teenager.  My husband and I happen to love the newest Ludacris album — those beats! Those rhymes!  Lady Antebellum, it is a quarter after one and I really do need you now!  It is a bad romance and you shouldn’t be plagued by the Papa-paparazzi Lady Gaga!

… Sorry … what was I saying?  Oh yes …

Surely you can understand why I’m torn.  I like to think that I’m just a harmless rebel.  I can have my classical music cake and eat it too, just with a decadent layer of modern pop/rap/country/techno goodness on top.  I promise, I love classical music and it is definitely part of my soul.  I guess I just can’t be completely faithful to the genre.  And really, is that a bad thing?  You were a bit of a rebel yourself, Stravinksy. And Mozart, you were kind of like the Jonas brother of your day, with your child prodigy-ness.  Right?

OK, so all I am saying, oh composer “Gods”, is that I like all music.  I can’t help it.  Generally music helps me to express myself a whole lot better than words can.  Sometimes I’m in the mood to listen to a Rachmaninov piano concerto, while other times I’m more in the mood to dance in my car to the newest Beyonce hit.  Does that really make me a musical sinner?  Honestly, I don’t think so.  Hopefully, you all see my argument and can understand.  If not, I guess I will just be forced to go listen to rehearsal as “penance”.

Ha!  As if that is really a punishment … looks like the joke is on you!

One slightly-guilt-ridden classical music lover

Written by Meredith Williams

May 14, 2010 at 9:41 am