Tuesday, May 29, 2018

May 29, 1913: Stravinsky's Rite of Spring premiered

Last updated August 31, 2018.

Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)

Igor Stravinsky (composer)

Composed: 1911-13

First Performance: May 29, 1913

Sales: --

Peak: --

Quotable: --

Genre: classical > ballet


    Part I – Adoration of the Earth

  1. No. 1a, "Introduction"
  2. No. 1b, "The Augurs of Spring" – "Dance of the Adolescents"
  3. No. 1c, "Ritual Abduction"
  4. No. 1d, "Spring Round Dances"
  5. No. 1e, "Games of the Rival Tribes"
  6. No. 1f, "Procession of the Wise Elder"
  7. No. 1g, "Adoration of the Earth" – "The Wise Elder"
  8. No. 1h, "Dance of the Earth"

    Part II – The Sacrifice

  9. No. 2a, "Introduction"
  10. No. 2b, "Mystic Circles of the Young Girls"
  11. No. 2c, "Glorification of the Chosen Victim"
  12. No. 2d, "Evocation of the Ancestors"
  13. No. 2e, "Ritual of the Ancestors"
  14. No. 2f, "Sacrificial Dance"

Average Duration: 33:50


Initially, The Rite of Spring was not well received by critics. “In understanding early reactions…, it is worth considering that while Stravinsky was at a relatively early stage in his career, a cadre of older, well-known, more traditionally aligned composers – Strauss, Saint-SaĆ«ns, Sibelius, Elgar, and yes, Rachmaninov – remained active and retained a good deal of currency with audiences. At the same time, the scenario adopted by the Rite collaborators – Stravinsky, folklorist and artist Roerich, choreographer Nijinsky, impresario Diaghilev – was far from the usual genteel, sentimental, and romantic themes that had theretofore dominated ballet. This collection of ‘Scenes from Pagan Russia’ (the work’s subtitle) concerns itself with an exploration of nature, both human and that of the earth itself, through the rituals of renewal – ultimately, human sacrifice – of an earlier, ‘primitive’ society.” MR

“The titles of the ballet’s two main sections, A Kiss of the Earth and The Exalted Sacrifice, as well as those of their internal divisions, make clear both the ritualistic, sacred, and inviolable progression of events reenacted via music and choreography, and the elements of that progression. Stravinsky skillfully sustains and continually heightens a sense of brutal inevitability over the span of the whole work while encapsulating more specific elements in individual scenes. The Introduction raises the curtain on the earth itself, the distinctive bassoon solo plaintively establishing a hushed, reverent mood. More complex colors – which Stravinsky achieves through extreme instrumental ranges (as in the above instance), special playing techniques, and endlessly changing combinations drawn from his greatly expanded orchestra – gradually emerge and expand, only to be cut off subito by a remnant of the original bassoon theme. The Augurs of Spring begins with one of the most famous chords in music history, a crunching bitonal sonority hammered relentlessly in a constant 2/4 meter metrically undermined by unpredictably shifting accents.” MR

“Comparable instances of such rhythmic and harmonic harshness abound throughout the work, these elements assuming, along with instrumental color, both individual and collective roles in a manner analogous to those of the characters. Like the musical elements Stravinsky uses in their portrayal, the girls, youths, and elders function together within the identity of their society, at the same time assuming and asserting individual roles in relation to one another. The action forges ahead in an increasingly frenzied trajectory, finding culmination – in a sort of primal equivalent of cold logic – in the charged, uncompromising sacrifical dance which ends both the ballet and the cycle of its ritual.” MR

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

May 22, 1874: Verdi's Requiem Mass performed for first time

Last updated August 30, 2018.

Requiem Mass, for soloists, chorus & orchestra (Manzoni Requiem)

Giuseppe Verdi (composer)

Composed: 1874

First Performed: May 22, 1874

Sales: --

Peak: --

Quotable: --

Genre: classical > choral


  1. Requiem
  2. Dies Irae
  3. Tuba mirum
  4. Liber scriptus
  5. Quid sum miser
  6. Rex tremendae
  7. Recordare
  8. Ingemisco
  9. Confutatis
  10. Lacrymosa
  11. Offertorio
  12. Sanctus
  13. Agnus Dei
  14. Lux aeterna
  15. Libera me

Average Duration: 83:10


“That Verdi's Messa da Requiem should be infused with the dramatic power of the his operas is no surprise. The text of the requiem is the most dramatic Verdi ever set, allowing him to explore his new ability to compose large sections of music on a ‘symphonic’ scale with powerful passages for chorus and orchestra” (Palmer).

“As much as Verdi lamented the death of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), he was more moved by the death of novelist Alessandro Manzoni in 1873. When Rossini died, Verdi felt that only Manzoni remained of Italy's great tradition. After Manzoni died, Verdi wrote to Contessa Maffei, ‘Now all is over! And with him ends...the greatest of our glories.’ When Verdi and Manzoni met in 1848, Verdi described the experience as one of being in the presence ‘of a saint.’ It was for Manzoni that Verdi composed his requiem.” JP

“From the very beginning, Verdi's Requiem was intended for the concert hall, not the church. This gave the composer some freedom when setting the text, although he remained much more faithful to the standard liturgy than did Berlioz in his setting. Verdi's Requiem was first performed on May 22, 1874, in Milan, on the first anniversary of Manzoni's death.” JP

“Verdi conveys the solemnity of the Requiem Mass through the opening cello line, a muted, descending phrase. The orchestra has the thematic material in the first part of the Introit, Requiem aeternam, as the chorus sings the text in snatches. To balance this, the central part of the movement, Te decet hymnus, is for unaccompanied chorus. After the return of the Requiem aeternam the Kyrie begins, introducing the soloists.” JP

“The Dies irae, opening the Sequence, is the most famous part of Verdi's Requiem. Brass and bass drum make their first appearance in this tumultuous outburst depicting the ‘day of wrath.’ Distant trumpets sound and are joined by the rest of the brass before the Tuba mirum. Quietly, the solo bass begins the Mors stupebit (Death is struck), accompanied by pizzicato basses and bass drum. After the solo mezzo-soprano delivers the ‘liber scriptus proferetur,’ the chorus bursts in with a reprise of the ‘Dies irae,’ an event dictated by musical considerations that has nothing to do with the requiem mass text. For the Lacrimosa, Verdi extended and rewrote a duet for Don Carlos and King Philip he had cut from Don Carlos before its premiere. Like Cherubini, Verdi unites the Sanctus and Benedictus.” JP

“Verdi composed the concluding Libera me, for soprano, chorus, and orchestra in 1868-1869 as his part of a collaborative requiem for Rossini, the remaining sections of which were to be set by other Italian composers. The project came to nothing, but Verdi kept his ‘Libera me’ and eagerly seized the opportunity to use it as part of a complete requiem. After the solo soprano begins the movement, the chorus again intercedes with the ‘Dies irae,’ which is followed by a beautiful reprise of the ‘Requiem aeternam’ and a closing, fugal setting of the ‘Libera me.’” JP

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