Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Rite of Spring

An 11 AM concert on Saturday was a great idea. Rested the night before, I was alert and attentive throughout the All-Stravinsky program I heard with SB. In the first half, Valery Gergiev conducted the New York Philharmonic in Symphony in Three Movements (1942-45) and Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments (1923-24; rev. 1950). I liked the Concerto more than the symphony. The orchestration was lean but still sounded lush. Two flutes and piccolo, two oboes and English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, and basses. Alexei Volodin was marvelously quick on the keyboard.

After the intermission, what the audience came for, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) (1911-13). I remembered Helen Gardner playing it to her class at Oxford while explaining the clashing juxtapositions in "The Waste Land." The abstract, Cubist ceiling of the concert hall seemed to me a perfect accompaniment to the music: rigorous, scientific, elemental, basic. The marvel was that so much civilization was needed to pierce into the primitive. The fertile and ebullient musical ideas were recalled again and again to the two-beat rhythm of footsteps. After we left the concert hall and walked into the sun, we looked at Spring differently, and welcomed it.

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