picture of Stravinsky
lab51 clef icon Igor Stravinsky
Le Sacre du Printemps
(Paris, May 29, 1913)
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Listening Guide for Parts I and II

With Complete Streaming Audio

The following audio selections are from the recording of Pierre Boulez conducting the Cleveland Orchestra (CBS Records MYK 37764 [1969 / 1982]).

Contents:

Part I: The Fertility of the Earth
1. Introduction
2. Dance of the Adolescents
3. Ritual of Abduction
4. Round Dances of Spring
5. Games of the Rival Tribes
6. Procession of the Sage
7. Adoration of the Earth
8. Dance of the Earth

Part II: The Sacrifice
9. Introduction
10. Mysterious Circles of the Adolescents
11. Dance to the Glorified One
12. Evocation of the Ancestors
13. Ritual Performance of the Ancestors
14. Sacrificial Dance

Jump to the Background Notes.

Page numbers in parentheses refer to the original score (in the upper corner of the sourcebook, not on the bottom).

These notes were written by Nol Bisson and based on earlier work by Andrew Shenton and Dmitri Tymoczko.


Part I: The Fertility of the Earth

1. Introduction (p. 3)
The sinuous C-major opening melody, derived from a Lithuanian folk tune, appears in the bassoon in an uncomfortably high register. The English horn enters with material implying some other key (A major?), and then becomes chromatic. Various tunes compete with each other; the texture is one of thickening non-imitative polyphony. Each instrument repeats its own distinctive material: for instance, the repeated pitch in the oboe, the fast wide arpeggios in the bass clarinet, and the dramatic rising figure in the E-flat clarinet. A momentary sense of pulse (at 1'57", approx.) is introduced by the low pizzicato (plucked) strings; this alternates with other sections. The music builds in intensity and activity to a chaotic climax (recalling the "blooming buzzing confusion" of springtime? or of the "primitive mind's" perception of events?). The initial bassoon figure returns, a semitone lower. A four-note ostinato is played pizzicato by the strings; this ostinato will dominate the next section.

Now listen to the complete movement, L'Adoration de la Terre: Introduction.

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2. Dance of the Adolescents (p. 11)
This is one of the more regular sections of the piece. It is almost entirely in 2/4 (duple meter), and a clear pulse can be felt throughout. Furthermore, most of the music centers on E-flat, though Stravinsky complicates things with chromatic notes from other keys. The section can be divided into three subsections. The first begins with a dissonant polychord pounded out by the strings with eight French horn adding unpredictable accents. It begins:

 

Melodic fragments with a narrow range are interjected and subtly varied by a variety of instruments. This subsection concludes with a climactic crashing sound. The second section is softer, featuring the four-note ostinato over a dissonant background of trills. A couple of new themes are introduced: one accompanies the entrance of the young girls, the other foreshadows the music of the "Round Dances of Spring" section. The last section involves a key change and an intensification of the "young girls" theme (notice how the four-note ostinato disappears in this last section).

Now listen to the complete movement, Danses des adolescentes, which is also presented in the Playthrough.

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3. Ritual of Abduction (p. 28)
Things grow more agitated in this rather brief section. The music here has a rapid rhythm of consistent eighth notes, but with irregular metrical groupings that make it jarring and difficult to follow. (This is one of Stravinsky's trademarks.) Horn-calls atop a dissonant bed of tremolos suggest a hunt or a chase; conflicting key areas and dramatic orchestral effects add to the sense of tension. There seem to be two types of horn involved in the ritual: one faster and fanfare-like, which plays in various keys; the other lower and slower, centering on the notes D and A.



In addition, a striking theme in the middle of the section foreshadows the "Games of The Rival Tribes" [5]. The music ends with a dramatic, irregular confrontation between the first, fanfare-like theme, and sforzando orchestral chords which perhaps represent the moment of capture.

Now listen to the complete movement, Jeu du rapt.

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4. Round Dances of Spring (p. 38)
A slow, reflective section, which thematically and tonally recalls the "Dance of the Adolescents." The music begins with a slow, sing-song line in the clarinets, which will return at the end of the section. Then a rising, ponderous series of chords forms a rhythmic and harmonic ostinato. A slightly altered melody from the "Dance of the Adolescents" reappears.

Dance of the Adolescents:

Round Dances of Spring:

Another theme from the "Dance of the Adolescents" then reappears over the ostinato. Dynamics increase as more instruments (and more dissonant notes) are added, reaching a high point with glissandos (sliding from one note to another) in the trombones, and the appearance of the percussion instruments. An abrupt interruption by the fanfare material of the preceding section leads again to the slow melody in the clarinets.

Now listen to the complete movement, Rondes printanières.

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5. Games of the Rival Tribes (p. 46)
Another fast dance, with prominent, violent percussion. This short section juxtaposes two main themes: one, a metrically irregular, loud theme which was first heard in the "Ritual of Abduction" [3], the other, a more consonant Hollywoodesque theme heard here for the first time. (Do the themes represent the two different tribes? or different parts of the ritual?) Near the end, a new theme appears, signalling the start of the "Procession of the Sage" [6].

Now listen to the complete movement, Jeux des cités rivales.

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6. Procession of the Sage (p. 59)
A very short section, featuring both polytonality and polyrhythm. Two themes in different keys confront each other in the brass. Meanwhile, the bass drum beats out a rhythm in 3/4 meter in conflict with the rhythms in 4/4 meter in the rest of the orchestra. Added brass eventually intensify the dissonances, and the music ends with a long pause.

Now listen to the complete movement, Cortège du sage.

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7. Adoration of the Earth (p. 62)
Hardly a section at all. A brief hushed series of chords while the Sage ritually kisses the earth.

Now listen to the complete movement, L'Adoration de la terre.

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8. Dance of the Earth (p. 62)
A strange section, with little direct relation to the rest of the piece. While the irregular accented brass chords (C-major, with an F# added) and agitated percussion are in the foreground, a simple ascending ostinato repeats in the string basses. (They are later joined by the bassoons.) This ostinato is an example of a whole tone scale, an unusual scale -- neither major nor minor -- which Stravinsky's Parisian audience would have associated with the French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918).

 

The punchy brass chords disappear, and are replaced by scampering scalar passages in the strings and brass. The volume builds, the punchy brass chords return, and the music stops abruptly.

Now listen to the complete movement, Danse de la terre.

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Part II: The Sacrifice

9. Introduction (p. 72)
Starting smooth and slow with an oscillating figure in the woodwinds, the introduction to Part Two is a sharp contrast to the energy of the end of Part One. A solo emerges in the flute part which is taken up by the first violin (and is used in the next dance). A fragmented melody is heard in the trumpets, echoed by horns in the distance, and finally taken up by the bass clarinet. Notice the variety of orchestral textures in this brief section.

Now listen to the complete movement, Le Sacrifice: Introduction.

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10. Mysterious Circles of the Adolescents (p. 80)
Rich string chords and a melody from the Introduction of Part II [9] make a smooth transition between sections. A texture change and increase in tempo (pi mosso) heralds solos from alto flute and clarinet. At the Tempo I marking the flute has a motive reminiscent of the horn call in [3],

providing more evidence of continuous development of material throughout the piece, and of connection between sections. A crescendo and accelerando combined with eleven repeated chords leads directly to the "Dance to the Glorified One" [11].

Now listen to the complete movement, Cercles mystérieux des adolescentes.

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11. Dance to the Glorified One (p. 86)
In this section the chosen one is named and honored. Notice especially the constant changes in meter. How does this affect one's perception of the music? Stravinsky uses the whole orchestra in this section. Do any patterns emerge or are the instruments used randomly to create the effect Stravinsky wanted? This section is a compendium of specialized orchestral techniques used by Stravinsky. How many can you identify?

Now listen to the complete movement, Glorification de l'élue; there is also a handout for this movement.

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12. Evocation of the Ancestors (p. 99)
Repetitive percussive chords are played at different dynamic levels. In particular, full orchestra is contrasted with four solo bassoons. Notice here how the music is directly related to gestures in the ballet.

Now listen to the complete movement, Evocation des ancêtres.

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13. Ritual Performance of the Ancestors (p. 103)
{A} A hushed accompaniment figure with bass drum (Gr. C) and tambourine with mysterious gestures in the English horn and flute.
{B} An oscillating pattern in the flutes is later joined by a narrow melody in muted strings which jolts to a loud dynamic {B1}.
{C} A series of short ascending chordal figures interrupts the flow before {B1} returns with its oscillating figure followed by {A}, the hushed accompaniment. When {A} returns at the end the solo instruments have changed to trumpet and clarinets.

Now listen to the complete movement, Action rituelle des ancêtres.

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14. Sacrificial Dance (p. 112)
The final movement is in five main parts:
{A} begins with accented, percussive chords and a dissonant, descending three-note figure in the violins.
{B - 0'32"} has tense chord repetitions which begin in the lower instruments followed by a fast six-note descending figure which is exchanged between the trumpets and trombones. Higher strings are added to the chord repetitions for increased tension and finally, trills are added to the agitation.
{A1 - 1'56"} is a brief return of the accented chords and three-note descending figure.
{C - 2'25"} has pounding timpani and an accented figure outlining a dissonant interval (in this case a tritone) in the brass. At about 3'03" material from {A} interjects briefly, only to be cut off by increasingly frantic interjections by the brass with short ascending glissandi.
{A2 - 3'33"} starts in a low register and builds in intensity using a four-note ascending figure. A fleeting ascending scale in the flutes and piccolos precedes the final death chord.

Now listen to the complete movement, Danse sacrale - L'élue.

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