The Rite Stuff…

https://i1.wp.com/taylorleebooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Mark-your-calendar-May-29th-03.pngThe other week, I mentioned in a posting that there are dates in musical history that always stick in my mind — Beethoven’s birthday, Mahler’s death-day, and so on. Well, today is another one of those dates that I personally happen to find unforgettable.

But, unlike the dates I mentioned in that posting — and, indeed, unlike most of the dates I remember — ’29 May’ is not a day when a composer was born or died, but rather a moment in history when a work was first performed and a composer’s career appeared to hang in the balance…

The specific day to which I refer is 29 May 1913 — which is when Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps was first performed, in the Théâtre des ChampsÉlysées in Paris.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9b/Theatre-des-champs-elysees-.jpgNow, this blog has a readership comprised of people all around the world and from all kinds of backgrounds — so I feel I know for a fact that more than a few of my regular readers won’t know much about Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), and may never even have heard of Le Sacre du Printemps (usually translated as ‘The Rite of Spring’, and with the subtitle ‘Pictures From Pagan Russia’). Whereas other readers and ‘followers’ of this blog include various of my musical friends and acquaintances in the UK and US — some of whom (and I’m not kidding!) are just about the smartest and most knowledgeable people you could ever strive not to meet, and who know pretty much everything there is to know about Stravinsky and this work from 1913…

https://i1.wp.com/i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02564/rite-of-spring_2564575b.jpg

Diaghilev and Stravinsky.

Does this present me with a problem when it comes to writing a posting about one of musical history’s most famous dates? It certainly does not. Because from the point of view of (i) my particular aesthetics (vastly different from anything that has ever made it into the textbooks), and (ii) my own educational philosophy (yes, the same applies), there is just as little point telling newbies about stuff they haven’t yet experienced as there is in telling experts things they already know. So at this point I’m not going to spend any electrons at all saying anything whatsoever about the impresario Sergei Diaghilev or the dancer/choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky — or about the so-called Ballets Russes (‘Russian Ballet’) and what it was doing in Paris before the start of World War I.  The rule is not ‘show, don’t tell’, so much as ‘don’t go telling people stuff until after you’ve shown them the things you’ll be telling them about’.

So, here’s the ‘show’, and we can all talk about it afterwards, when everyone — expert and beginner alike! — is ‘on the same page’ with regard to what we’re talking about…

What is The Rite of Spring? This is.

What happened on 29 May? This did

MD

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