Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bernstein in The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky

   It is really hard to say how much of his fame Igor Stravinsky owes to his ballets. His works were as much different as creative and the best part of his creativity was constant variability. He was programmatically syncretic, aiming to synthesis of all genres and ideas of artistic music. Using all kinds of formal and performing meanings, building of elements taken from diverse sources are Stravinsky’s peculiarity. This is the simple fact he was most original composer of his generation. Even though he became world famous thank to his cooperation with Sergei Diaghilev and his company Ballets Russes. First two ballets, The Firebird (1910) and Petrushka (1911) made for the company were successful and composing his third ballet Stravinsky was more experienced and radical than before. The Rite of Spring (Весна священная) was finished in 1913 and premiered in Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreographic embodiment May 29th, 1913. And the scandal becomes the real success. And the scandal in the theatre was the start to real success of music alone.
   The ballet was subtitled as Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts and thank to Stravinsky’s music, Nijinsky’s choreography and Nicholas Roerich’s costumes it was virtually a manifesto of new musical, ballet and theatre esthetics. The Rite of Spring became the legend, ballet featured in the history of 20th century music as the example of new esthetics and foundation of many different “isms”. Indeed, Igor Stravinsky was polystylistic, constantly moving between different orientations since his aspiration was to make synthesis of all creative tendencies in concert, stage, religious and even popular music. Considering The Rite of Spring was turning point of the revolution in 20th century music, it serves as a chance to discover primary outcome. 

Bernstein – Stravinsky – Rites of Spring (1958)

   And there are dozens of great performances and recordings published since the beginning of long playing records era. One of early classic recordings was New York Philharmonic rendition conducted by Leonard Bernstein and published by Columbia Masterworks (MS 6010) in 1958. In cover notes for this edition Charles Burr wrote: “The Rite of Spring is still the most significant musical work of our time. Its birth pangs, which some mistook for an attempt to destroy music, are now seen to be, instead, the point of departure for a whole new way of listening to music”. These words, written almost half of the century after the work premiere, show unique position of Stravinsky’s music in shaping modern culture. Composer was not affirmative towards various interpretations. In fact he recognized as legitimate only his own performances and only conductor was his friend and co-worker Robert Craft.
   Leonard Bernstein’s rendition of The Rite of Spring is totally different from the vision known from recorded performances of Stravinsky and Craft or Igor Markevitch. Bernstein’s interpretation is extremely sound sensitive. It’s focused on orchestral colors and this solely element is responsible for formal integrity. This approach helps to understand the relationship between The Rite of Spring and the works of Rimsky-Korsakov or French impressionists. Complex structures allow the great number of possible emotional or semantic interpretations. The New York Philharmonic is perfect as usual although in some parts is trying to play this music in 19th century emotionalism. Leonard Bernstein shows its possible and fresh. Four stars even if somebody will say it is biased rating.

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