Le Sacre du Printemps by Igor Stravinsky

Marvellous, organised, musical chaos, as much now as it ever was. And as much a test piece for any orchestra as it ever was.

Perhaps when I first heard Le Sacre du Printemps it was quite a shock and very exciting. I still think it one the pivotal works in musical history, but I also see it as the final glorious climax of 70 years (from Glinka, through Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov) of the Russian nationalist school. It sounds intensely Russian and stretches the developments of that school about as far (and just beyond) harmonically, rhymically, etc., as it could conceivably go. No wonder Stravinsky started to change direction somewhat after its completion, he knew what he had achieved and that he could go no further down that road.

I first heard Le Sacre du Printemps in Solti’s 1974 Chicago Symphony Orchestra recording and will never forget that first hearing. It was rarely off the turntable for many weeks afterwards. It is surely the most elemental work in the repertoire and even the greatest of orchestras are challenged as witness the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the BBC Proms a couple of years ago.

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