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100 years of Le Sacre Du Printemps

December 12, 2013

2013 marks the hundredth anniversary of the notorious Paris premiere of the Nijinsky ballet and Stravinsky score of Le Sacre Du Printemps conducted by Pierre Monteux. 

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The May 29th premiere reportedly generated quite a negative response, according to contemporary accounts, such as this recounting in the New York Times (note, however, that when the lights were turned up, status-conscious Parisians stopped booing):

 

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Aren’t you glad you didn’t see that stinker!  (Although Bel Air Classiques has just reissued in DVD-book format its recording of  the Mariinsky/Valery Gergiev reconstruction of Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring choreography)

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In honor of the 100th anniversary, there are a bevy of very nice box rereleases of the recording.  Decca has released a box set of 35 recordings of the Rite of Spring (along with three recordings of the piano duet version and one recording of the Violin Concerto in D)

  • The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1946) Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Eduard van Beinum
  • The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1950) L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1954) RIAS Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Ferenc Fricsay
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1954) Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1956) Orchestre des Cento Soli, Rudolf Albert
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1956) Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, Pierre Monteux
  • The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1957) L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1959) Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1963) Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1963) London Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1969) Los Angeles Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1972) Boston Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1973) London Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernard Haitink
  • The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1974) London Philharmonic Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf
  • The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1974) Wiener Philharmoniker, Lorin Maazel
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1974) Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Georg Solti
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1975) London Symphony Orchestra, Claudio Abbado
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1976) Concertgebouw Orchestra, Colin Davis
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1977) Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan
  • The Rite of Spring (1913 version; recorded in 1978) National Youth Orchestra, Simon Rattle
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1979) Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1981) Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati
  • The Rite of Spring (1913 version; recorded in 1982) Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein
  • The Rite of Spring (1921 version; recorded in 1984) Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, Charles Dutoit
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1985) The Cleveland Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1991) The Cleveland Orchestra, Pierre Boulez
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1991) Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Georg Solti
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1992) The MET Orchestra, James Levine
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1994) Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester, Berlin, Vladimir Ashkenazy
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded in 1995) Orchestre de Paris, Semyon Bychkov
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1995) Berliner Philharmoniker, Bernard Haitink
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 1999) Kirov Orchestra, St Petersburg, Valery Gergiev
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 2006) Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 2007) Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Myung-Whun Chung
  • The Rite of Spring (1947 version; recorded in 2010) Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, Gustavo Dudamel
  • The Rite of Spring (1913 version for two pianos; recorded in 1968) Bracha Eden & Alexander Tamir (piano)
  • The Rite of Spring (1913 version for two pianos; recorded in 1983) Güher & Süher Pekinel (piano)
  • The Rite of Spring (1913 version for two pianos; recorded in 1990) Vladimir Ashkenazy & Andrei Gavrilov (piano)
  • Violin Concerto in D (Bonus CD. recorded in 1935) Samuel Dushkin (violin), Lamoureux Concert Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky

Russell Platt wrote a thoughtful review of the box set in the New Yorker

Not to be outdone, Sony has issued its own box set which is notable for some very early recordings:

  • The Rite of Spring (recorded 1929/1930) Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded 1940) New York Philharmonic, Igor Stravinsky
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded 1951) Boston Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Monteux
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded 1955) Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded 1960) Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded 1968) Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded 1969) Cleveland Orchestra, Pierre Boulez
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded 1972) London Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded 1989) Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen
  • The Rite of Spring (recorded 1996) San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson-Thomas

as well as a single disk of Leonard Bernstein’s 1958 recording with the New York Philharmonic. 

This bevy of recordings provides a remarkable opportunity to see just how much influence a conductor can have on a recording, as one compares the differences between styles.  This remarkable recorded history is a wonderful tribute to the genius of Igor Stravinsky.

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