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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
The Story of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in rehearsal/Valery Gergiev with archive material including clips of Stravinsky at work and scenes from the ballet
A film by Peter Rump
rec. Netherlands TV (NPS TV) 1999
Region Code: 0; Picture format: 4:3; VD5/NTSC; PCM stereo
ARTHAUS MUSIK 109210 DVD [57:00]

This is a most interesting and stimulating video combining fascinating, arresting glimpses of Gergiev’s rehearsals of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps with footage of the composer at work. We get to see the site of the ballet music’s composition in a rented room at Clarens, Switzerland overlooking the lake. There's also Stravinsky in conversation with Pierre Boulez about a re-interpretation of the work that did not fully meet with the composer’s approval. The composer re-visits the theatre where the scandalous premiere of the work took place. Also intercut with Gergiev’s rehearsals, are scenes from the actual ballet.

Gergiev, very early on in rehearsal with the Rotterdam players, makes it quite plain that he does not approve of a tendency to blunt the effect of Stravinsky’s music. He immediately asks the bassoonist who opens the whole work not to be restrained but to play loudly and aggressively to joyously proclaim the arrival of Spring. He does not want peaceful and friendly music alla Puccini; he wants music that is essentially rhythmically vital, dark, wild and earthy, music for dance to appease the God of Spring culminating in that final human sacrifice. He asks the orchestra to be open to everything in the score observing the part played by, one imagines, every instrument and every section of the orchestra. He wants the horns at figure 149 to invest maximum rhythmic energy into their staccato dance. He asks the alto flute to play at maximum speed and loudly to evoke of a bird’s whirring wings. Instead of being concerned with the music played by their orchestral colleagues, he wants them, for maximum effect, to concentrate only on their own parts.

Stravinsky himself was quite determined about the strict performance of his music as per his score. Asked how long the musicians had to play rows of repeated figures, he replied “Until it ends!” Film of the uproar at the premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on 29 May 1913, conducted by Pierre Monteux, is startling. Stravinsky’s reaction was quite dramatic: “Go to Hell”, he exploded and stormed out of the theatre.

A small carp: the filming of the rehearsals is sometimes marred by a disconcerting tendency towards gimmicky pulsating coloured lighting.

Utterly absorbing; not to be missed.

Ian Lace


 

 



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