Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky, (5 June 1882 – 6 April 1971) was a Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor, widely considered to be one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. His first success came from the premiere of ‘The Firebird’ at the Paris Opéra on June 25, 1910, which demonstrated how much he had been influenced by the flamboyant Romanticism and orchestral palette of his then tutor Rimsky-Korsakov. Two years later, the first performance of ‘The Rite of Spring’ at the Théâtre des Champs Élysées on May 29 1913 provoked one of the more famous first-night riots in the history of musical theatre.
This highly original composition, with its shifting and audacious rhythms and its unresolved dissonances, was, without doubt, an early modernist landmark.Generally speaking, ‘The Rite of Spring’ is built upon a rhythmic idiom which is very distant from that of the classical Western tradition, effectively challenging the audience and driving the work through a powerful progression of scenes and emotions. Stravinsky pushes rhythm to its utmost barriers, expanding on Petrushka’s methods of frequently varying rhythms and unusual meters (for example the use of 5/8, 2/8 and 4/8 near the end of the Ritual of Abduction). Though the opening sections of the ballet are not as rhythmically involved as the later sections, many complex patterns are apparent.
For example, subdivisions of the beat into triplets, sextuplets and groups of 10 can be seen in the Introduction, as well as hetero-rhythms, eight demi-semiquavers against six quavers, four semiquavers against three quavers and threes against twos. There is also use of polyrhythm which takes away any sense of rhythmic cohesion between sections. This can be heard at the climax of the introduction where simultaneous triplets/septuplets/straight quavers etc.
all sound together to illustrate the chaos of the gradual awakening of nature at the beginning of spring as well as at figure 41 in the Ritual of Abduction the violins, violas and cellos play in compound triple time (9/8), while the double basses play in 4/8 and 5/8. Furthermore, savage pounding rhythms can be heard at the beginning of ‘The Augurs of Spring’. Here, the single-chord ostinato of a dischord played by the strings is propelled by the syncopated rhythm of the eight horns, punching out accents on and off the beat. In order to stabilize the seemingly consistent rhythmic flow, Stravinsky accents unexpected places, for example when the French horns enter, the off-beat is accented.
This brings attention to the already apparent