The rock-inspired chamber version of Stravinsky’s masterpiece that first caught the attention of audiences and critics worldwide. Scored for Fireworks’ original instrumentation of flute, clarinet, electric guitar, violin, cello, bass, piano, and percussion, the arrangement inspired Fanfare magazine critic Robert Carl to write “This simply has to be heard to be believed; the music sounds completely contemporary in this orchestration, and one hears things one never has before. It’s a gamble that triumphs.”
The Rite of Spring ranks among the greatest artworks of the 20th century, and one of the most important pieces of orchestral music ever created. With vibrant, colorful orchestration and visionary compositional technique, Igor Stravinsky brilliantly manipulated Russian folk tunes and rhythmic patterns into massive textures of dissonant chords and asymmetrical dance rhythms. At once both incredibly complex and utterly compelling in its visceral power, The Rite perfectly captures the spirit of the violent pagan sacrifice it depicts and the turbulent modernist art world of the early twentieth century. So startlingly original was Stravinsky’s vision that it (famously) caused a riot at its premiere in Paris in 1913.
The piece remains incredibly influential even today, more than 100 years after it was first performed, and is cited as one of the most important and inspiring works by young musicians ranging from classical composers to jazz improvisers to indie rockers. For Fireworks’ director, Brian Coughlin, the piece was nothing less than the missing link between serious classical composition and the world of popular music:
“Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring single-handedly made me a believer in classical music. On first hearing the primal pounding of The Dances of the Young Girls (the work’s iconic second movement) as a young student, I suddenly realized that ‘classical’ music, which I had considered too old-fashioned to be taken seriously as a contemporary listener, could actually be as powerful and meaningful to me as the rock music I loved. My life was changed forever. This was rock for orchestra! No music that I had heard to
that point combined raw emotional power with such complexity and sophisticated musical craft – it was the best of both worlds.”
Fireworks’ version brings a 21st century sensibility to The Rite. While staying true to the spirit of Stravinsky’s conception, the ensemble’s stripped-down, rock-inspired chamber version presents the piece as a living, breathing work that speaks to our current condition as vibrantly as any piece being written today.