Friday, May 29, 2020

This Day in Music History 29-05-1913

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from May 29, 2013. It can be found in our archives at


Today's stroll into the Podcast Vault takes us back seven years, as we larked the centenary of an important milestone in music history, the then-controversial premiere of The Rite of Spring, at a regular ballet recital in Paris.

Much like the equally (yet less celebrated) Skandalkonzert held in Vienna two months earlier, the riotous atmosphere of the evening stands out in contemporaneous accounts. Either evening, however, can be thought of as the inflexion point where old traditions give way to new ideas in music making.

Though mostly familiar as a musical score, we tend to forget that the Rite of Spring is after all a ballet, and that the reaction of the audience that night could have been directed to the dance performance... The rhythmic intensity of the score, the script and the choreography undoubtedly caused the spectators to be moved. In the context of the rest of the recital (traditional numbers of classical ballet, all included in this podcast), one can well imagine why! After the premiere, during a meal with his composer and choreographer, Diaghilev said of the sensational reaction that "this is exactly what I was looking for".

After a series of nine performances, the ballet is put aside, and will not be danced again until seven years later (same scenic concept, but under a choreography by Leonide Massine). There are few vestiges of Nijinsky's original choreography, however, even a handful of notes and photos. It is from these documents as well as sketches left by Roerich that Millicent Hodson, Kenneth Archer and Robert Joffrey try to recreate everything in 1987.

As our bonus track, I retained the 1919 suite of Stravinsky's earlier Diaghilev ballet, The Firebird. We shared a different (more elaborate) version of this suite from 1947 last year, however the shorter 1919 version is more familiar. The performance is by the Toronto Symphony.

I think you will (still) love this music too.

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