Igor Stravinsky

Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring), ballet in 2 parts for orchestra

    Description by Michael Rodman

    The day seems to have passed, thankfully, for at least one development sparked by Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (1913): the concert review in ersatz, proto-Dr. Seuss-style verse, e.g.:

    Who wrote this fiendish Rite of Spring

    What right had he to write the thing,

    Against our helpless ears to fling

    Its crash, clash, cling, clang, bing, bang, bing?

    And then to call it Rite of Spring,

    the season when on joyous wing

    The birds melodious carols sing

    And harmony's in everything!

    He who could write the Rite of Spring,

    If I be right, by right should swing!

    While lynching the composer -- which the anonymous author in the Boston Herald of February 9, 1924 appears to advocate in his last couplet -- seems a bit excessive as a pan, one must remember that such vituperations only added to the air of succès de scandale that had surrounded Rite since its Paris premiere some ten years earlier. Certainly, the impact of this legendary event (as well as similarly "colorful" receptions to the work elsewhere) expedited its recognition as an all-around seminal occurrence and achievement in the social history and art of the twentieth century. In understanding early reactions to Rite, 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-Saëns, 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.

    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.

    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.

    Parts/Movements

    1. No. 1a, Introduction
    2. No. 1b, The Augurs of Spring
    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
    8. No. 1h, Dance of the Earth
    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

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795805
    2016 Pentatone / PentaTone Classics PTC 5186556
    2016 Sinfonieorchester Basel SOB 12
    2016 Exton 50
    2016 Recursive Classics RC 2057001
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795553
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Cugate Classics CUG 3
    2015 Erato
    2015 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186225
    2015 Sony Classical 88875026162
    2015 Radio France FRF 02027
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 002894794261
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon B002398272
    2015 MDG Gold MDGSC 9301908
    2015 Sony Classical 88875061412
    2015 Warner Classics 552758
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795229
    2015 Chandos CHAN 10863
    2015 Walt Disney D 002066392
    2014 Seattle Symphony SSM 1005
    2014 Solo Musica SOB 06
    2014 Actes Sud / Musicales Actes Sud ASM 15
    2014 ABC Classics 4810847
    2013 Naïve V 5332
    2013 Decca 4785437
    2013 Decca / Mercury 4785092
    2013 Signum Classics SIGCD 330
    2013 Jon Kimura Parker FP 0907
    2013 Sony Classical 88765442692
    2013 Brussels Philharmonic Recordings BPR 004
    2013 Sony Classical 88725461742
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099972361122
    2013 Sony Classical 88725442552
    2013 Naïve V 5192
    2013 DG
    2013 Steinway & Sons 30031
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon B001903202
    2012 Naxos 8501055
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 002894770055
    2012 Decca / Mercury Living Presence 001653302
    2012 Decca 4784253
    2012 Decca / Universal
    2012 Decca 4783728
    2012 Mirare MIR 171
    2012 Melodiya MELCD 1001990
    2012 Channel Classics CCSSA 32112
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Naxos 8571223
    2012 Concerto / Zebralution
    2011 Alto ALC1131
    2011 Signum Classics SIGCD 271
    2011 OPMC Classics 001
    2011 Teldec
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca 4783028
    2011 BIS BIS-SACD-1474
    2011 Signum Classics / Signum UK SIGCD 205
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4779111
    2010 Classics & Jazz / Universal Classics & Jazz
    2010 BD Jazz / Zebralution
    2010 Sony Classical 88697714372
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 001660502
    2010 Naïve V 5223
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Classics & Jazz
    2010 Decca 570135
    2010 Audite 95605
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 14281-02
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Newton Classics 8802013
    2010 BR Klassik 900706
    2010 Decca
    2010 Classic Records / Classic Records 2023
    2010 Exton 00330
    2010 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099996771
    2010 Decca
    2010 San Francisco Symphony 821936-0032
    2010 Dorian 92109
    2010 Urania 121100
    2010 Analekta 29932
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon
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    2009 Testament 1453
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099924275
    2009 Sheridan Square Records 28290
    2009 Macro / Tapete Records 10
    2009 Medici Masters 20
    2009 Denon Records
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    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 Decca
    2009 Decca 4781728
    2009 Walt Disney
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921750
    2008 Guild Historical 2342
    2008 RCO / RCO Live 08002
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4717412
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4777160
    2008 Everest EVERCD 007
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099920687
    2008 EMI Classics
    2007 ABC Classics 4766329
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 4776667
    2007 Sony Classical Essential Classics 103112
    2007 Haenssler 93196
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 001050702
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon
    2007 Decca
    2007 London/Decca / Decca / Universal Distribution 4758525
    2007 London/Decca / Decca B0009721
    2007 Naxos 8557508
    2007 Regis Records 1276
    2007 Tudor Records 7145
    2007 Warner Classics 1145072
    2007 Apex 4643772
    2007 Nimbus 5087
    2007 Elatus
    2007 Decca 000972302
    2006 Bmc Records 118
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon
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    2006 Edel Classics 2612
    2006 Music & Arts CD1182
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 4767813
    2006 Universal 4768957
    2006 Brilliant Classics 8148
    2006 Decca 000771602
    2006 Andante AN2150
    2006 Decca 4757470
    2005 Mercury 000518902
    2005 Amabile 33
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000447902
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 477 5494
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    2005 EMI Music Distribution 49636
    2005 Erato
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    2005 Cascavelle 5006
    2005 Delos 3100
    2005 Virgin 82003
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    2005 Laserlight 16408
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    2005 Weitblick 23
    2004 Palexa 531
    2004 Musical Heritage Society 5375964
    2004 RCA Red Seal 62314
    2004 Universal Distribution 000344402
    2004 Avid 600
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 573441
    2004 Telarc Distribution 80615
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    2004 ASV / Resonance CDRSN3014
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    2003 Andante 4080
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000041502
    2003 Tahra 1
    2003 Laserlight / Delta Distribution 40044
    2003 Decca / Universal International 473 731-2DF2
    2003 JVC Compact Discs 225
    2003 Accord 115
    2003 Virgin Classics
    2002 Delta Distribution 14591
    2002 Andante 1960
    2002 Fermate 20009
    2002 Philips 464744
    2002 Decca
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    2002 Brilliant 6243
    2002 Supraphon 36652
    2002 Sony Classical Essential Classics 89894
    2002 Classica d'Oro 1048
    2002 Telarc Distribution 60563
    2001 History 203295
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 469205
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    2001 EMI Music Distribution 574305-2
    2001 Teldec 81702
    2001 Rca Red Seal 846092
    2001 Unesco 707262
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    2000 T-Rax 33
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    1999 Decca 460644
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    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459071
    1998 Eclipse Records 520
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    1997 Testament 1076
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon
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    1996 Reference Recordings 70
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    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 445 538-2GMA2
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    1995 Laserlight 14273
    1995 Naxos 8 553217
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    1995 Clarity Recordings 1005
    1994 DM / Madacy 1061
    1994 Supraphon 111948
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    1994 Teldec 95496
    1994 BIS 400
    1993 Chesky Records 42
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 437531
    1993 Telarc Distribution 82001
    1993 RCA 61557
    1993 Sony Music Distribution 47629
    1993 Mercury 434331
    1993 Philips 438 350-2PM2
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 54899
    1993 ASV CDQS6031
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 64516
    1992 Dorian 90156
    1992 Telarc Distribution CD80266
    1992 Vox 3016
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48169
    1992 Deutsche Grammophon 435769
    1991 Pearl GEMMC 9488
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 46290
    1991 Teldec 46420
    1991 Astree 7803
    1991 RCA 60541
    1991 Melodiya 1000192
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 431045
    1990 Astree 7800
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 429162
    1990 Sony Music Distribution 45796
    1990 Telarc Distribution 80054
    1988 CBS Records 42433
    1987 Deutsche Grammophon 415854
    ABC Classics 4766330
    Deutsche Grammophon 437000
    BBC Music 1001
    CBS Records 42395
    Emergo 3969
    Arkadia 766
    CBS Records 37764
    Ades 20263
    RCA 7985
    RCA 61394
    MusicMasters 67078
    EMI Music Distribution 74742
    Disques Montaigne 8800
    Decca 4757798
    RCA Victor 61893
    EMI Music Distribution 68065
    London 417704
    Beulah 2PD11
    Nimbus NI1749
    National Youth Orchestra of Canada 2009
    Quintessence 2077
    IMP Golden Legacy 107
    Sony Music Distribution 46291
    Cetra 3008
    London 400084
    Teldec 44938
    London 417325
    Philips 420491
    RCA 56529
    Bayer Records 100110
    Pyramid Records 13504
    Fonit-Cetra Italia 3008
    BMG 60993
    Supraphon 110659
    RCA 61898
    EMI Music Distribution 47408
    Philips 416498
    Collins Records 3033
    Erato 75360
    London 414202
    Bescol 514
    Teldec 18964
    BBC Music Magazine 135
    Moscow Studio Archives 20018
    Nimbus 5714
    Classic / Classic Records HDAD 2023
    IMP Masters 25
    Mercedes
    Teldec 89095
    Excelsior Recordings 31027
    Cascavelle 2004
    Philharmonia of the Nations 49
    Blue Cat Music
    Pro-Arte Records 933
    Classica 55130
    Chandos 6654
    Cascavelle 3016