“This simply has to be heard to be believed; the music sounds completely contemporary in this orchestration, and one hears things one never has before. It’s a gamble that triumphs.”
“The Rite of Spring” ranks among the greatest artworks of the 20th-century, and one of the most important pieces of orchestral music ever created. With vibrant, colorful orchestration and visionary compositional technique, Stravinsky brilliantly manipulated Russian folk tunes and rhythmic patterns into massive textures of dissonant chords and asymmetrical dance rhythms. At once both incredibly complex and utterly compelling in its visceral power, the “Rite” perfectly captures the spirit of a violent pagan sacrifice. So startlingly original was Stravinsky’s vision that it (famously) caused a riot at its premiere in Paris in 1913.
The piece remains incredibly influential even today, 100 years after it was first performed, and is cited as one of the most important and inspiring works by young musicians ranging from classical composers to jazz improvisers to indie rockers. For Fireworks Ensemble's director Brian Coughlin, the piece was nothing less than the missing link between serious classical composition and the world of popular music:
“Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ single-handedly made me a believer in classical music. On first hearing the primal pounding of ‘The Dances of the Young Girls’ (the work’s iconic second movement) as a young student, I suddenly realized that ‘classical’ music, which I had considered too old-fashioned to be taken seriously as a contemporary listener, could actually be as powerful and meaningful to me as the rock music I loved. I knew my life was changed forever. This was rock for orchestra! No music that I had heard to that point combined raw emotional power with such complexity and sophisticated musical craft – it was the best of both worlds.”
Fireworks’ version brings a creative, 21st-century sensibility to “The Rite.” While staying true to the spirit of Stravinsky’s conception, Fireworks’ stripped-down, rock-inspired chamber version of the piece presents “The Rite” as a living, breathing work that speaks to our current condition as vibrantly as any piece being written today.
ABOUT FIREWORKS ENSEMBLE
An amplified chamber band known as “the bridge between the contemporary classical ensemble and the mainstream popular audience,” Fireworks has led the charge to bring a fresh perspective on chamber music to both established audiences and new generations of listeners. With a repertoire that includes Frank Zappa’s instrumental rock, dance music from around the world, classic cartoon music, traditional Americana, and arrangements of 20th-century orchestral works such as Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Fireworks presents a distinctly American vision of chamber music. The ensemble tours throughout the United States each year and has appeared venues ranging from Carnegie Hall and The Library of Congress to nightclubs such as New York City’s (Le) Poisson Rouge and Tonic. Passionate about education and outreach, Fireworks has participated in Chamber Music America’s Residency Partnership Program and Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program, and is currently ensemble-in-residence at the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium.