Paris, May 29, 1913. A veritable who’s who of Parisian société fills the Champs-Élysées theatre, expecting a young composer’s newest effort. What they got was one of the most revolutionary works of composition in musical history.
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What was so radical about the debut of Igor Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps, or Rite of Spring? Take your pick. The harsh, jarring music, the violent choreography, even the subject matter: A pagan ritual in which a young girl dances herself to death. Stravinsky made use of dissonance with clashing, unresolved chords. The effect on the crowd was, to say the least, unsettling…a full-scale riot broke in the audience. In fact, police arrived at intermission to restore order.
Critics, though, celebrated Stravinsky’s bold move, and the piece was performed in London to great acclaim. The Rite of Spring returned to Paris the very next year…this time, the audience carried Stravinsky out on their shoulders.