Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring: The Buzzfest Of Its Day

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This weekend, the Houston Symphony performs Igor Stravinsky's ballet Rite of Spring, which, before it was featured alongside a bunch of dying dinosaurs in Walt Disney's Fantasia, was probably most famous for sparking a full-blown riot upon its premiere in Paris in May 1913. Seriously - check out the Wikipedia entry (citations supplied via link):

The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. 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. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the première allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet's opening bars, though Stravinsky later said "I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere."

Now that is some punk rock shit right there. Houston Symphony principal conductor and Music Director Hans Graf has located an audio interview with Stravinsky, where the composer talks about the riots. Graf and Associate Conductor Brett Mitchell will discuss the interview, the riots and the ballet in a prelude to the performance at 7:10 p.m. tonight and Saturday and 1:40 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

Also on the program is Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor (Op. 30), played by featured soloist Garrick Ohlsson. You may remember the "Rach 3" as the bane of pianist David Helfgott's (as played by Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush) existence in the 1996 movie Shine.

8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 713-224-7575 or www.houstonsymphony.org.

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