Cutting Room Floor: Stravinsky’s Rite
14 May 2011
Inside the Classics

Posts tagged as Cutting Room Floor are where we put all the material relevant to our Inside the Classics concerts that we don’t have time to get to in the actual shows. Some of it is serious, some of it is silly, and some of it is just extra information about the featured composer or piece of music that we didn’t know what else to do with. This is also the place for any comments or questions you want to leave after having attended one of the live shows. Just click the “Comment” link at the end of the post…

First off, here’s the playlist of pieces we excerpted during the first half of the concert:

STRAVINSKY Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)

Longtime ItC concertgoers know that Sarah and I have developed a pretty consistent formula for our first half shenanigans, and we chose to take a slightly different tack in this concert. Ordinarily, we try fill the first half not only with excerpts from the featured work, but music by as many other composers as possible, in order to help put the featured work in context.

But in designing this show, there was a problem with that approach: it’s very tough to put Stravinsky in context using anyone but Stravinsky as a reference point, at least within the confines of a 45-minute presentation. He was such a musical universe unto himself that we decided, instead of trying to place him in a larger time and place into which he barely fit anyway, to paint as broad a picture as we could of this unique individual and his art. We covered music from each of his very distinct compositional periods, and hopefully offered a window into one of the most wildly chaotic (yet oddly disciplined) musical souls I’ve encountered.

A few extras for you:

  • If you’re interested in more than the Cliff Notes version of Stravinsky we introduced you to tonight (and if you aren’t put off by books that weigh more than the table you keep them on,) the absolutely authoritative tome on his life and work by Richard Taruskin is worth every penny it costs and every minute it will take you to read it. I plowed through the first volume when it first came out, back in my Oberlin Conservatory days, and it absolutely changed the way I thought about music and the effect it can have on people and societies.
  • Speaking of books, Stravinsky himself wrote a few, but in my opinion, his voice comes through most clearly in the memoir lovingly curated by American musicologist Robert Craft. Highly readable and full of personal detail, this was the book that got me past my youthful distaste for Stravinsky’s prickly personality and unapologetic ego.
  • We were so lucky to have the talents of choreographer Penelope Freeh and dancer Stephanie Fellner on display during this concert. Penny was a big part of our very first Inside the Classics show back in 2007, and as any Twin Cities dance aficionado knows, she is one of the brightest lights in a very bright local scene. Stephanie is best known locally as a longtime member of the excellent Ballet of the Dolls, and those of us in the orchestra have been fortunate to watch her dance in several of our recent opera productions. If you aren’t someone who’s attended a lot of dance performances, I can’t recommend the work of these two amazing women highly enough. They both perform regularly all over the metro.
  • The Minnesota Orchestra is actually on a bit of a Stravinsky binge at the moment, with this weekend’s ItC shows being just the beginning. This coming week, we’ll be playing the Firebird Suite under guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth, and later this summer, a Firebird reprise and a complete performance of Petrouchka (the one about the creepy puppets) are on the docket.
  • If you want to experience a totally different take on Stravinsky, the newly renamed Loring Theater (it’s the one on Nicollet at 14th St, just south of downtown, that most of us know as the Music Box Theater) has you covered next weekend, as The Bad Plus, that undefinable trio of jazz/pop/indie rockers, offer their own multimedia take on The Rite of Spring. I honestly don’t have the faintest idea what they’ll be doing (and one of you will have to tell me after the fact, since the orchestra has conflicting concerts both nights,) but their credentials are strong, and hey, multimedia Stravinsky! What could go wrong?
  • It almost never fails to be the case, when Sarah and I hold our post-concert Q&A sessions, that the music everyone wants to ask us about is whatever fresh new piece by a young, virtually unknown composer we’ve managed to sneak into the first half excerpt book. This time around, that slot went to a wonderful piece we first played at last fall’s Composer Institute, by a young Russian-born, Yale-educated composer named Polina Nazaykinskaya. The piece was called Winter Bells, and while we only played you a small piece of it, it’s more than worth your time to listen to the whole thing, and lucky for all of us, we’ve got a full version right here…

It’s been a wonderful Inside the Classics season for Sarah and me, and to see full houses night in and night out from our preview concert last November right through to this weekend’s sold-out shows is so amazingly touching and humbling. To everyone who came to even a single concert at Orchestra Hall this year, thank you for supporting live music. You can’t imagine how much it means to every one of us in the Minnesota Orchestra.

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