Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in Concert at NEC


Conductor Hugh Wolff and the New England Conservatory Philharmonia mark the centenary of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring at Jordan Hall in Boston.

To hear the concert, click on "Listen" above.

May 29, 1913, marks a turning point in the history of music and of culture in general. Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring was performed for the first time, supporting the choreography of Vaslav Nijinsky in a production of Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.

The story of its riotous premiere and aftermath is a great story worthy of more exploration. Here in Boston, the NEC Philharmonia commemorated the centenary with a concert that also included Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 1, the "Spring" Symphony, and the "Polovtsian Dances" from Alexander Borodin's Prince Igor

On April 15, the rehearsal process was interrupted by the bombing at the Boston Marathon, an event that indelibly colored the experience of The Rite of Spring.

Join host James David Jacobs for an exploration of that experience through reflections by NEC students and conductor Hugh Wolff, who wrote

The morning of April 15, we rehearsed as usual: students with cups of coffee fighting early morning fatigue and the end-of-school-year work crunch. When we reconvened on April 17, our world felt altered. We were gripped by an unusual anxiety.

This wasn’t about practicing and recitals and exams, this was about life and death. Our musical world had shrunk in significance, crowded out by the harsh reality on the city’s streets. What does a concert mean when life and limbs have been lost in act of violence just blocks away? Why were we doing this? Did it matter?

As I looked over the sea of young faces that morning, I felt their worry and their distraction, so I asked them to consider the point of creating art. Why does art matter? Art is often about creating beauty. Creating beauty affirms the best in the human spirit. But art also holds a mirror up, reflecting even what is repugnant.

As musicians, we don’t expect to alter political discourse or prevent tragedies like the Marathon bombing. But we can, each of us incrementally, add beauty to the world and help tip the balance away from the horrible. We can be a collective conscience, raising voices together, acknowledging human failure, and aspiring to something better, something larger than ourselves.

To hear the concert, click on "Listen" above.


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