Your First Time and Subsequent Obsession with The Rite of Spring

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It has occurred to me that I may have thought about The Rite of Spring, if only fleetingly, at least once every day since I first heard it at the age of four. I'm not talking about deep, philosophical contemplation, but an embedded flash of recognition, as you might subliminally recall a landmark visible from the backyard of your childhood.

After years of being obsessed with it, not being obsessed with it, following the eternal Stravinsky v. Schoenberg aesthetic death thread in all its exhaustive permutations, and even beginning to think of The Rite as just another old masterpiece, I come back to how primal it is. It's about nature, the body, urgently repeated rhythms, bright colors, folk songs, excitement and shock, beauty and mystery.

It's an incredibly fun listen, every section and every soloist has amazing things to do, and the conductor has an obstacle course of choices in balancing (like which one of these six things do we really want them to hear? All of them?) and pacing (do we go for the kill here or here?) And that is why it is so much fun to listen to different recordings of it.

The stereo LP of Stravinsky conducting (pictured above) was one of my prized possessions as a kid, and it's still a great one, but there are scores of recordings that light it up. I will present a hand-picked dozen or so of what seem to be the very best, or most interesting and exciting of all, along with commentary, not only by me, but from an assortment of our world's most vital composers, players and presenters, all telling you what The Rite means to them.

I also want to know what The Rite means to you. Do you have any special memories connected to the music? A favorite recording? What was it like the first time you heard the piece? Leave your stories in the comments section below and, time permitting, I'll include them Wednesday, May 29 during our centennial marathon.