Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Evening at the Cafe: Stravinsky!

Yes, it is Stravinsky. Would you want to get the note wrong? In this clip, he is conducting in his 80s. "Music praises God," Stravinsky said. "Music is well or better able to praise him than the building of the church and all its decoration; it is the Church's greatest ornament."

That being said, Stravinsky's unconventional major seventh chord in his arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner in 1940 led to his arrest by the Boston police for violating a federal law that prohibited the "reharmonization" of the National Anthem. Who knew you could be arrested for playing at a major seventh?

Here he is in 1961 conducting Firdbird, followed by a contemporary rehearsal of the same piece:

In fact, when Stravinsky's Rite of Spring premiered, it actually provoked a riot. Here's Wiki:
At the start with the opening bassoon solo, the audience began to boo loudly due to the slight discord in the background notes behind the bassoon's opening melody. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance, and Stravinsky himself was so upset on account of its reception that he fled the theater in mid-scene, reportedly crying. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the première (though Stravinsky later said "I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere.") allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet's opening bars.

Stravinsky ran backstage, where Diaghilev was turning the lights on and off in an attempt to try to calm the audience. Nijinsky stood on a chair, leaned out (far enough that Stravinsky had to grab his coat-tail), and shouted counts to the dancers, who were unable to hear the orchestra.

Here is the Rite of Spring. No rioting, please:

One really ought to fill one's iPod with Stravinsky before setting off to Anaheim this summer. Just saying.

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