Forty-seven years after playing The Rite of Spring with the National Youth Orchestra (“Yeah, I KNOW…”), I just heard them doing it at the Proms.
In The shock of the new I reflected on the scandalous première, the ballet, jazz and HIP versions, and a rendition on organ.
Like the NYO’s other Proms in recent years (Turangalîla, Mahler 9; cf. here), there’s something special for the audience in experiencing young performers relishing challenging modern masterpieces, sizzling with energy and commitment. The Rite may have become more of a repertoire piece than it was even in 1970, but it never fails to amaze. Even if I missed Boulez—who relished the sensuality as well as the violence of the piece (“Not A Lot of People Know That”—I grew up with his Mahler and Ravel too).
The complete BBC4 broadcast included a feature before The Rite with lovely paeans to the band from some of the great conductors who have worked with them, including Boulez and Rattle—the latter himself an alumnus. Our 1970 Rite with Boulez wasn’t at the Proms, but our 1971 Prom with him included more Gran visits York (sorry, I mean Igor Stravinsky), as well as Bartok, Berg, Webern, and Debussy. Wow, how awesome is that—as we hadn’t yet learned to say...
For another Proms Rite in 2022, click here.