Chat Transcript: Dr. David Goza & Ward Botsford, The Rite of Spring
Monday, September 10th, 2001
Welcome to the Drury University Chat Room. Our guests this evening are Dr.David Goza and Ward Botsford. Our topic? The illustrious history and depth behind Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
Have most of you seen Fantasia?
David Goza is Associate Professor of Music at Drury University and founding conductor/music director of the Chamber Orchestra of the Ozarks who so recently performed this masterpiece. You can listen online to their performance.
Serving as guest host this evening, is Ward Botsford. Ward has produced classical music for a variety of labels including CBS, Vox and Arabesque Records. Currently Ward serves as Editor in Chief for www.classicalmusicguide.com.
Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring revolutionized music at its premiere in 1913, opening new vistas of rhythm, melody and harmony. Actually, the radically unique piece was not recieved well at its opening, called "fiendish" by the Boston Herald.
But since that time, Stravinsky's masterpiece has been recognized by critics and audiences as a musical work of art.
And truly, a start to a new era in music. Ward - please go ahead.
My start with Le Sacre was Fantasia & I imagine most people of that age got into it first there
It was a great introduction.
David: Where did your notion of Sacre at Drury come from? ga
I saw it too, although I was pretty well acquainted with it by that time.
T-Rex. Absoluttely! ga
The idea of Sacre here came out of discussions with some of the science faculty.
Their notion was to try to find music that would in some way address the annual Theme of our general ed curriculum.
Tell us about it. ga
This year that theme is "Origins" and it seems to me that the _Rite_ has quite a lot to say about that.
Shall I elaborate?
Well, to give one small example - and this could be enlarged upon to the point of being tiresome - there's a curious little "dangling participle" near the end of the first
portion of the opening bassoon solo - a descending diminished third followed by a rising augmented fourth.
This is greatly expanded upon during the pastoral introduction, so that by the time the bassoon solo re-enters, that little motive has grown
into something that fills the hall with sound. None of its permutations could have been foreseen, back at measure 5!
Let me compliment you on the performance! And let me warn you East Coast fellows may want to steal your horn department en masse!
They don't come cheap!
About the conducting: How hard is it to beat time in the Danse Sacarle where temo changes every bar?
Let me try to give you an idea of what was involved here.
I started working on this score back in November, shortly after my colleagues and I decided we'd mount this performance.
I spent about three hours a day on the thing, memorizing first of all the meter changes, then the phrase lengths and structures, then the harmonic content, and finally the orchestrational details.
I finally got finished with all that about three days ago, just in time for the performance!
If you are just joining us - we are chatting with conductor Dr. David Goza of the Chamber Orchestra of the Ozarks and Ward Botsford, classical record producer and editor in chief of www.classicalmusicguide.com
If you have any questions, please let us know by pressing the ? on your keyboard, we'll let you know when it's your turn.
Why the 1913 version instead of the 1945?
The meter is really a matter of choreographing the body - those odd mixtures are really east european dance rhythms, which are easy to internalize if one has grown up with them, but fairly difficult for a Westerner steeped in Haydn.
Now about 1913 as opposed to 1945: first of all, 1913 can be procured less expensively than 1945!
Second, in Springfield the chances are vanishingly small that someone is going to say, after the performance,
"I noticed you were using x instead of y."
You got me!
Anyway, I think the revisions may have had to do more with Stravinsky's interest in protecting his royalties than out of artistic considerations.
I could be wrong.
How long were rehersals?
I agree! Changes are strictly visual. Not audible.
We had 2 1/2 hour rehearsals on four occasions before the performance, plus some volunteer reading sessions that I held on and off throughout the late summer, for the benefit of those who were intimidated by the mixed meter of some sections.
The full orchestra was actually never in place until Saturday afternoon, since we had to bring in a few key players from out of town.
That was a little intimidating for the conductor!
If not a life's work then, surely a summer's work.
And possibly a life's work as well. I'm not sure anyone could ever learn all there is to know about it.
How many did you have to add to your orchestra. Mostly from Springfield?
Ordinarily, we field up to 35 players (for a Haydn "London" symphony, for instance). So we added 50 or so players for this performanc. Most of them were local.
It was a mixed bag.
Must have been a chore!
Have you listened to a lot of Sacre recordings? Whose?
In many interesting ways! Primarily, there's the need to pull players into the swing of things, when Stravinsky's swing really is different, in fundamental ways, from Haydn's.
I like very much the Colin Davis recording with Concertgebouw; not so much for the orchestral playing, as for Davis' keen sense of tempo relationships.
I also like the Cleveland Orchestra's playing very much under Boulez, but I am less convinced by Boulez' understanding of the tempo relationships; some of them sound arbitrary to me.
The Cleveland Orchestra under Maazel released a recording that I think is awful, and unfortunately, I own it.
The recent recording by the Oslo orchestra with Janssens I like fairly well.
What are your picks?
I have 62 recordings ranging from 3 of Monteux, two of Stravinsky, 2 of Ansermet etc. etc.
The Stravinsky recordings are a hoot!
08:29 PM - Becky entered the room.
The earliest one is in constant danger of coming apart at the seams; the later one is so patched together it's very hard to listen to!
08:29 PM - WardFM left the room.
Let's take a question while we wait for Ward to come back.
HistoryMaj - I believe you were first.
Historically speaking, what was the mood in 1913? Why would the people be so riled up?
Good question - I'll take it in stages.
First of all, I think it was probably the dancing more than the music that offended them.
The musical universe was, in some ways, broader then than it is now - people were listening to the tonal experiments not only of the late 19th century romantics, but also the whole-tone music of Claude Debussy, etc.
But it is true that the _Rite_ was a lot more "brutal" in its demeanor than the more well-behaved ballet music that Parisian audiences were hearing.
That may have been a little too much for them.
What's your impression?
It's hard to imagine horrible ballet
Well, believe it or not, there has been some! But I'm not sure the _Rite_ would qualify.
08:33 PM - Becky left the room.
Let's take our next question.
I have to be honest, I get while the French hated it. I'm not particularly fond of it myself. A question though. You talked about inverted "somethings' in your introduction, Dr. Goza. Could you explain that again?
OK, here goes (be patient!):
The chaccone theme in the first movement of the Holst Suite, is brought back in a "diatonic inversion" as part of the 9th variation.
That is to say, Holst begins on the same note as in the original form, but where the original goes up a step, he now goes down a step, etc.
08:35 PM - jdenton entered the room.
08:35 PM - Legato entered the room.
The entire inversion is a kind of "mirror" of the original. And it's a test of a fine composer, whether his (or her) inverted theme can sound as good as the original!
Later, Holst inverts the inversion - that is, he produces an inversion of the inversion, that is _absolutely true_ to the first inversion, in that the half steps are half steps, the whole steps are whole steps, etc.
I tried to tie this in with the idea of "convergent evolution." It was probably a stretch, with a few leaps of logic in it, but I enjoyed doing it!
Thank you for your question. Did I come anywhere close to answering it?
Has anyone successfully choreographed Rite of Spring?
The operative word here is "successfully." I'll try to answer this...
The first choreography was by Vaslav Nijinski, and it is this choreography (together with the costumes, the set, and the music) that so enraged the audience at the premiere.
08:39 PM - NYListens entered the room.
Whereas French ballet partisans were used to seeing beautiful and elegant productions in tutus, with euphonious music coming from the pit, here were gawky, blocky dance movements in ugly costumes, with dissonant, heavily-accented music.
08:40 PM - WardFM entered the room.
The Nijinsky choreography has been reconstructed, and filmed for television broadcast (I think this project was mounted around 1985 or so). It hasn't received much acclaim, so far as I know - perhaps Ward can tell us more. At any rate, I think the consens
consensus now is that the _Rite_ probably succeeds better as a concert piece than as a ballet.
No AC for a couple of minutes.
Go ahead jdenton
Then we'll take RockFan
I saw the 'reconstruction' it was ghastly.
What made Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring So different from everything else?
Musically or otherwise?
For one thing, while it's not atonal music by any stretch of the imagination, it's grounded in scales that are very different from those in the major-minor tonal system.
That is, Stravinsky uses a lot of folk-like modes, and also relies heavily on such synthetic scales as the octatonic set.
This doesn't end up sounding very much like Brahms.
Then when you couple that with his rhythms (Stravinsky may have been the greatest inventor of rhythms who ever lived), you've got something truly new and different.
Rockfan - you are next, then Ward, then JohnLisa
I was turned on to Classical musical because of Fantasia. And the Rite of Spring piece - with the Dinosuars and the volcanos was amazing. Was there a purpose to your neglecting it? (BTW, I loved the performance!)
True, I didn't mention it. I enjoyed the Fantasia bit quite a lot, but on the whole, I'm ambivalent about the use of great music as background for something it was not intended for. So it may reflect a personal bias. I am very glad you enjoyed the perform
performance - thank you very much for coming!
Ward, you were next.
Let's take John Lisa next.
Some was some small mention of the connection to musical DNA. Can you elaborate on that at all?
If you listen to the Ansermet recordings you hear tons of Rimsky-Korsakoff that others conceal. Doubt that Igor liked that.
Let's answer John Lisa first and then go to WArd.
I'll give it a whirl - nothing in the Stravinsky score "represents" DNA, or anything like that. But what fascinates me is the way the piece grows "organically" from little
snippets of information, which end up yielding huge constructs that couldn't have been foreseen.
This seems to me a wonderful analogy for the way life has emerged on this planet.
08:49 PM - jdenton left the room.
08:49 PM - oddjob entered the room.
Hence the tie-in to "Origins."
Ward = go ahead with your question.
If you listen to any of the Monteux records - there are 3 - you get an idea of what the original performance was like.
I did hear one recently - and it was almost unrecognizable!
I felt much pity for those struggling musicians who were trying their best to slog through this difficult score!
I think it was with the orchestra of the Paris Conservatoire.
Yes, that's the last.
What were the others like?
08:52 PM - NYListens left the room.
Well, the first was with an 'unnamed orchestra' & the second with the San Fransisco.
Personally I liked the L'orchestre.
I have 63 recordings of the damned thing.
This documents pretty well, I think, the fact that a performing tradition has grown up around the piece, and orchestras now seem a bit more adept at handling the complexities.
Tell us about those recordings, please!
I have 63 records of it.
Well, the only one I dis was with Hornstein which I didn't like much. The three with Boulez are very good - in their own frame.
08:54 PM - Legato left the room.
But you really can't record Sacre. It's too big for you home!
You're absolutely on the mark!
Same applies to Mahler's symphonies - they have to be heard in the Alps.
08:55 PM - HistoryMaj left the room.
Last Question for Ward and David: Worst performance of Rite of Spring? Best? David, you first.
It's something that must be Experienced. Note Caps.
When I played principal oboe with the Memphis Symphony, we played it on Easter Sunday one year. The following Tuesday, the local paper was filled with angry letters to the editor about our bad taste -
programming such pagan nonsense on the holiest day of the year.....
A week later, a small tornado came through downtown Memphis, taking the roof off the auditorium....
The following Tuesday, the letters to the editor page was again filled, this time with pronouncements of the wrath of God.
Worst! Hmmmm! I am not a fan on Dorati ...
Best was last Saturday night. More personal involvement, you know. It has to be experienced rather directly!
Any more questions folks?
nope this was great
bye! thank you
Thanks to all of you. Ward, it was a pleasure.
Diana, you're a terrific moderator.
Thanks very much David and Ward
Indeed I thank you sir! And again: Bravo!
Good night everyone!