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A Fright of Spring – 24 hours unbroken Sacre bleu….

That’s what they’re doing on the work’s centenary, May 29, on  Q2 Music, the contemporary classical online station of WQXR.

I might take the day off. Press release below.



rite of spring

“The Rite of Spring” performed by the Béjart Ballet Lausanne. (Photo by Francette Levieux)


Rite of Spring Fever:

A Q2 Music Centennial Marathon

24 hours of recordings of The Rite of Spring,

including a live solo piano performance by Vicky Chow from The Greene Space

Co-presented by WNYC’s Soundcheck and Q2 Music


Curated and hosted by Phil Kline


Wednesday, May 29th, 12:01AM to 11:59PM

(New York, NY—May 14, 2013) Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is perhaps the most revolutionary, provocative and influential work of the last 100 years. The story of its Paris premiere is one for the history books, but despite its infamous start, the work is now regarded as one of the most important of the 20th Century, and continues to inspire to this day.


On WEDNESDAY, MAY 29th, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of The Rite of SpringQ2 Music, the contemporary classical online station of WQXR, will present “RITE OF SPRING FEVER”—a 24-hour marathon of contrasting interpretations of this Stravinsky masterwork.


Hosted and curated by composer PHIL KLINE, the marathon will give listeners extended exposure to a work that the first audience could not tolerate. The line-up will include powerhouse legendary recordings (Pierre Boulez with Cleveland Orchestra, 1969), historical interpretations (Leonard Bernstein with New York Philharmonic, 1958), captivating alternative arrangements (Stravinsky’s own player piano roll), Kline’s personal favorites, and submissions by listeners.
The centerpiece of the festival is a live rendition by acclaimed pianist Vicky Chow (of Bang on a Can All Stars) from The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at 7pm in front of a studio audience.  Co-presented by WNYC’s Soundcheck and Q2 Music, “THE RITE OF SPRING GOES SOLONo orchestra, no ballet, just piano,” features Chow performing her solo piano arrangement that combines two earlier versions with contemporary flair. John Schaefer will host, and he will be joined by WNYC’s Sara Fishko, producer of “Culture Shock: 1913,” a radio documentary about controversial cultural events that occurred that year around the world, including The Rite of Spring premiere. Tickets may be purchased at


“It occurred to me that I may have thought about The Rite of Spring, if only fleetingly, at least once every day since I first heard it at the age of four,” said host and curator PHIL KLINE. “It is an incredibly fun listen– every section and every soloist has amazing things to do—and what better way to celebrate this work than by sharing with listeners different recordings of it.”


Sprinkled between selections will be remembrances and insights from musicians, composers and WQXR and WNYC personalities about the first time they heard the work and their impressions as to why the piece continues to exert such sway over the public imagination, including:  trend-setting musician-composers Dan DeaconZoe Keating and Owen Pallett; 2012 MacArthur Fellow Claire Chase,Pulitzer Prize-winning composers Steve Reich and David Lang; celebrated conductors Robert Spano and Alan Pierson. The marathon celebration also features an in-depth, deep-dive immersion into this 20th century masterwork hosted by Phil Kline with special guest, conductor, New York City Opera General Manager and Stravinsky obsessive, George Steel.


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  1. SergioM says:

    When it comes to watching Sacre I like Boulez with the horses

  2. If I had a time machine, I’d really like to go back to 1913 … not just to attend the official premiere performance of the work, but to eavesdrop (perhaps as a ghost?) on the private four-hand piano performance given shortly before the orchestral premiere by Stravinsky with none other than Claude Debussy, and at one piano! According to reports, Debussy was more or less sight-reading it — he was a brilliant prima vista player.

    Everyone plays the original 4-hand piano arrangement mostly on two pianos nowadays. I’ve played it together with colleagues on one piano before, but the last piece of the first part “Danse de la terre” is almost unplayable with just one piano unless you know your partner intimately well :) We gave a few of the lower notes to the page turner, then it worked out OK!

    All of the arrangements for solo pianist have been done by other composers. I believe someone has even arranged it for guitar?

    • SergioM says:

      I would definitely would have loved to have been at the official premiere to see the chaos and to see Saint-Saens walking out in disgust while Debussy was trying to get the outraged audience to quiet down.

    • I’ve also performed the duet version; wouldn’t say you have to know your partner intimately, but you have to be very organised about who goes “up” and who goes “down”, and good personal hygiene matters. It’s a blast though. Now, the duet version of The Miraculous Mandarin – check out the first few pages of that!

  3. Richard Harrold says:

    There is also this stupendous organ arrangement:

  4. Question–

    Is the Rite of Spring the most over-hyped piece of flatulence ever ??

    • SergioM says:

      How dare you! Absolutely not! What you’re describing is ANYTHING written by Puccini

    • James Forrest says:

      Well . . . maybe not the MOST (Grin), but it is surely not worth all the attention paid it, nor all the effort involved in a decent performance. Like almost all (NOT ALL . . . ALMOST) Stravinsky after Petrouchka, it is really not very important music, and not terribly attractive listening. I have yet to see a ballet performance of the work that does not bore me to death.

      • Although you are probably correct in saying that everything Stravinsky had to say musically in the “Rite of Spring” from an innovator’s standpoint was already there in “Petrushka”, I do believe that “Rite of Spring” was the more important work of the two … if only because it grabbed its listeners by the ears and forced them to “listen up”.

        But the music of “Rite of Spring” is, IMHO, infinitely more sensuous and suggestive than that of Petrushka. I find it very attractive listening from that standpoint. Petrushka might indeed be the better ballet because it does lend itself well to dance, which perhaps cannot be said about some of the music in the “Rite of Spring”. But there have been very memorable ballet renditions (e.g. John Neumeier’s production in Hamburg in the late 1970′s which I attended myself). Which ones have you seen?

        • As for other memorable ballet renditions, how about the one by Pina Bausch? – it is compelling.
          I’m guessing that the ballet company in the Boulez performance may be the same as in his performance in Paris in 2000 with dancers and horsemen from the Indian state of Kerala- and what we see here is marvelous- the addition of the horses is a quite striking interpretation of the “Spring Rounds” and “Games of the Rival Tribes” – and, of course, Bejart’s version set at least 40 years ago is another that must be seen.

          I wasn’t aware of Neumeier’s Rite of Spring, and am sorry I haven’t seen it, but he has also choreographed a memorable ballet about Nijinsky, and his life and breakdown, including of the premiere of the Rite of Spring, except it is set to music by Chopin, Schumann, Rimsky-Korsakov, and, primarily, Shostakovich, though none by Stravinsky. (It was performed in the States about ten years ago and then again this year.)

          The Boulez interpretation here is brilliant, and the slower tempo in the opening really sets the stage. (Someone once gave me a crash course on the difference between the French and the German bassoon, the former being better adapted to high register writing but more problematic with passage work, and after that I always wondered if the opening of the Rite of Spring was intended for the French bassoon- at this tempo maybe those playing the German variant have to draw on every bit of technique to sustain the line.)

  5. And not to forget John Travolta’s take on the Rite! :)))

  6. In celebration of the centennial of the premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (May 29th), I’ve collaborated with synthesist Jay Bacal to make an animated graphical score of it:

    Part 1:
    Part 2:


    Stephen Malinowski, Music Animation Machine

  7. mitzouko says:

    Pete, it’s a fabulous musical masterpiece, you try composing such a great work. Besides, it had so many
    new aspects for the period.

  8. The scandalous story of the premiere may have added a little to the piece’s reputation and fame, but regardless of that, Le Sacre is definitely a great masterpiece. There has been lots of good music written after 1910, but nothing better than (or maybe even as good as) Le Sacre.

    • Terms such as “better than” or “as good as” need to be taken with a grain of salt! You are essentially implying that musical development has gone downhill since 1910. I’m sure that many people today would be happy to dispute that assumption.

      Don’t forget about Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire” — premiered in 1912, and Mahler’s 9th and 10th symphonies, both composed in 1910. And there are lots of other works by Bartók, Hindemith, Richard Strauss, Berg, Webern, Debussy, etc. etc. which could conceivably take it up with “Rite of Spring”. And most of Prokofiev’s oeuvre was created after that date… even Rachmaninoff lived longer to create a masterpiece such as the “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”. Although it is certainly reactionary compared to Stravinsky’s ballet works, can you honestly say that it is better, or worse, as music per se than those?

      • There’s a difference between saying that The Rite of Spring was a high point (perhaps one that has not been surpassed) and saying “musical development has gone downhill since 1910.” Looking back, there are many examples of pieces of music which have not been surpassed. Has anybody written counterpoint that surpassed Bach’s? Have string quartets that surpassed Beethoven’s late quartets been composed? There has definitely been “musical development” since Bach, but development is not synonymous with progress (that is, improvement). Is Beethoven “better” than Bach? Is Stravinsky “better” than Beethoven? Are the Beatles “better” than Stravinsky? These are apples and oranges comparisons. If music were simply a matter of progress, there’d be no point to listening to Bach, or Beethoven, or Stravinsky, or the Beatles — we would all just listen to the latest, “most developed” music. But it’s an art form, and great art can be produced by great artists in any epoch, regardless of what set of tools are at their disposal or what constraints they’re working within. If Bach was a greater composer than anybody since, it’s possible that one of his compositions has not been surpassed — in spite of the “musical development” that has happened since then.

        • In response to RH and SM: my comment from May 14 said “after 1910″ and i acknowledged that there is plenty of fine music written since then (some of RH’s examples are among my favorites too). However, in my personal opinion, Le Sacre (not as a ballet but as a piece of music) has not been surpassed (or possibly equaled) in terms of its overall musical quality, the power of its impact, and the uniqueness of the composer’s achievement in it. That does not imply “that musical development has gone downhill since 1910″, but it does mean that during that time no piece of music reached a peak that is higher than (or possibly as high as) the one climbed by Stravinsky with such brilliant success exactly one hundred years ago.

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