Prehistoric Russia

The music of Le Sacre du Printemps baffles verbal description. To say that much of it is hideous as sound is a mild description. There is certainly an impelling rhythm traceable. Practically it has no relation to music at all as most of us understand the word.

Musical Times, London, August 1, 1913


1913: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Debussy’s Jeux and Florent Schmitt’s La tragédie de Salomé (not to mention a performance of Mussorgsky’s opera Khovanshchina) − quite a season!

The scandal (this time) was provided by the Stravinsky: cat-calls, hisses, boos and scuffles greeted the first performance of a work that was to become universally acknowledged as one of the twentieth centuries greatest scores. Nijinsky – despite Stravinsky’s serious reservations – had been given the job of choreographer; the resultant dance was almost as original as the music itself and undoubtedly added considerably to the disgruntlement of the more traditionally minded members of the audience.

While Stravinsky’s Rite went on to triumph after triumph, Nijinsky’s has, until recently, languished in obscurity; here the Mariinsky recreate (minus the punch-up) that famous evening of 29th May, 1913:

There is music wherever there is rhythm, as there is life wherever there beats a pulse.

Igor Stravinsky

Course materials:

Daphnis et Chloé, Part 1


Cycle of 5ths

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