Though The Rite of Spring has become standard since the 1970s, it remains an overwhelming experience today, whether you’re familiar with it or not. Playing it in 1970 with the National Youth Orchestra, conducted by Boulez, was one of the great experiences of my life. Never mind that it’s the kind of imagining of “pagan rites” that academically I would dispute—it’s a world away from romanticizing!
Remember, at the 1913 Paris premiere the ballet was just as shocking as the music—this gives an impression (first of three parts):
And here’s an attractive quandary:
“Stravinsky once joked that the dauntingly high-register bassoon solo which opens the piece should be transposed up every year to stop players getting complacent about it. He wanted the effort to register.”
But “it’s complicated”—see also here (and note the ritual wind instrument connection).
There’s a wealth of discussion of that opening solo in bassoon blogs.
And then there’s the “original instrument” debate—the “lite Rite”, as Richard Taruskin called it:
By the way, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, less revolutionary but no less captivating, must have suffered by its proximity.