The quest for identity or a fool among fools

Oranges  – the prize. © Charles Thibo

Everything is connected – isn’t that so? Whatever we do, it has consequences, big or small, harmless or deadly. Whatever we decide, it affects people around us, positively, negatively. At the end, our life is the sum of our decisions, well-meant, often misguided and mostly overrated as to their importance. A couple of things come together here.

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Studies in musical abstraction signed Stravinsky

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Progress. © Charles Thibo

The master – a student? What could he possibly learn? He had written superb ballets, enchanted and scandalized the audience, he had proved time and again that he was one of the leading voices of his time, perhaps the paramount representative of Russian music in exile: Igor Stravinsky.

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A scandalous ballet with a barbaric signature

Sacre Printemps
Vitality-fertility. © Charles Thibo

The adulation of nature. Blasphemy! The sacrifice of a young woman. Horror! Music with broken harmonies, dissonance? A scandal! Paris was in uproar in 1913 after Igor Stravinsky had presented the ballet “The Rite of Spring” (Le Sacre du Printemps), the premiere almost provoked a riot in the Théâtre des Champs Elysées. “This ‘stuff’ certainly should be played on some barbaric instruments”, a critic wrote, not fully aware that he actually grasped an important aspect of the composer’s general idea: To express the idea of primitive and therefore true vitality, he wrote large parts of the piece in a fictive “barbaric style”.

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Stravinsky unleashes the Firebird’s new rhythmic force

Catch fire! © Charles Thibo

A  Russian folk tale. An extraordinary composer. An extraordinary ballet impresario. Ecstatic critics, an overwhelmed audience. For the 1910 season of the “Russian Ballets” in Paris, Igor Stravinsky wrote a piece that became an instant success and meant for the composer his breakthrough on the international music scene: The Firebird. It also was the beginning of a long and fruitful cooperation between Stravinsky and the choreographer Sergei Diaghilev.

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