The Rite of Spring was first performed as part of a Paris season by the Ballets Russes, the most influential ballet company of the era. When it comes to the legend of the Rite’s 1913 premiere, it’s difficult to separate truth from fiction. But in many accounts, the evening descended into a near-riot: after scuffles in the auditorium, the police were called and 40 people were thrown out of the building. As one observer wrote, ‘A certain part of the audience was thrilled by what it considered to be a blasphemous attempt to destroy music as an art.’ If that sounds familiar, many people said something similar about the Sex Pistols’ legendary 1976 show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall.
From Stravinsky’s dissonant, cubist rewritings of Russian folk melodies to his vicious, lightning-strike rhythms, the Rite was built to shock – and the intervening years haven’t dulled the impact. Modern music has caught up with and even emulated Stravinsky’s innovations. But this savage, ferocious and truly radical piece still takes the breath away. No one forgets their first encounter.
Premiered 12 months apart in Paris, this double-bill of iconic ballets surveys the revolutions that swept music a century ago. Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé is a seductive piece of musical impressionism, delicate melodies soaked in lush orchestrations. Compare and contrast with Stravinsky’s primeval The Rite of Spring,which caused a near-riot on its opening night and remains one of the most exhilarating experiences that the concert hall has to offer. The evening begins with Vivo, Magnus Lindberg’s modern homage to Daphnis and Chloé.