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Igor Stravinsky - Rite of Spring


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I really love Stravinsky's tendency to use a gigantic orchestra. the ROS has no harps in it, but it has


3 Flutes

Alto Flute

4 Oboes

English Horn

Piccolo Clarinet

3 Clarinets

Bass Clarinet

4 Bassoons


8 Horns

Trumpet in D

4 Trumpets in C

3 Trombones

2 Tubas

2 Timpani

Triangle, Tambourine, Guiro, Crotales, Cymbals, Bass Drum, Tam-tam

Violins 1

Violins 2




+additional piccolo, english horn, A/Bb clarinets, bass clarinet, contrabassoon, wagner tubas being doubled by players


Yes. 8 horns.

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Very fond of Firebird, personally (I've played two or three movements from the 1919 with two different ensembles), but I don't like Rite of Spring at all. Maybe because the images assigned to it in the 'Fantasia' arrangement always gave me nightmares as a child.

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Wanton? Actually, in Reingold Wagner calls for six harps, I believe -- most often in unison. Which, as Berlioz would tell you, is so you can hear them. For instance, in Berlioz's 'Roméo et Juliette', there are two harps in the Ball scene, but he recommends doubly or tripling each part so they can be heard properly over the rather loud orchestra.

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  • 11 years later...
  • 2 months later...

First of all, Rite of Spring is an incredible, great piece that I have come to love.

I think there are few people who enjoy listening to it the first time. Understanding the structure of it makes it so much more interesting, and you start to hear the deep raw emotion that is expressed in it. It's a piece where you don't have to guess at what is being suggested (in a broad sense): the "guts" of the music are displayed clearly to the listener.

Favorite parts are probably Spring Rounds and the Glorification of the Chosen Maiden. Consequently, the Glorification is a blast to conduct.

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  • 2 months later...
On 8/2/2005 at 2:47 PM, J. Lee Graham said:

I too agree that Rite of Spring is not atonal. It just feels that way. It's wildly polytonal in places, and the harmonic structure is nothing if not complex, but a lot of it is quite tonal indeed, especially the melodies. I like Rite of Spring because while it's modern, it is also highly structured. If I'm going to go that far into the unknown, I want a firm rock to stand on, and ROS gives me that. My favourite piece of Stravinsky's, with "Firebird" running close second.

I’m not sure that Stravinsky would agree with you that the Rite is highly structured. He has said that it had no precedent for him as a composer, that it was all new and unfamiliar territory. Still, there is a certain rightness to it, but much of that comes from sheer force of will and an unrelenting momentum. There is contained in it a lot of finesse too. He doesn’t overdo it in polytonality either. Maybe some borrowed notes from another key. But four keys as was mentioned? I think not. After the big climax in the first half the music starts up again with a tonality not unlike Messaien, only pushed further. And there are far too many repeated notes and clusters that anchor you into the tonal realm. (I think we can all agree that it’s not atonal.)

And there is the very textbook use of polyrhythms and nested polyrythms that Bernstein analyzes comprehensively in one of his Harvard lectures, a must see.



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