The First Chicago Performance of the Rite of Spring
While reading a review from the Chicago Daily Tribune, I was surprised to find out that the first Chicago performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring wasn’t until November 7, 1924, which means there were 11 years between the premiere in Paris and the first performance in Chicago. According to a program in the New York Philharmonic digital archives, the first performance in America wasn’t until 1922. I assumed that a piece as prominent and divisive as the Rite of Spring would have been performed in the United States sooner. One possible reason for this delay could have been World War I, but I wonder if the divisive nature of this piece was responsible for the amount of time it took to reach America. Maybe the perception of the Rite of Spring had to change in Europe before it would be accepted in the United States. The same program mentioned above stated that the “concert version of the music of the ballet” was first played in 1914. This is a significant change, and I wonder if this altered Europe’s perception of the piece over time. The first Chicago performance was of the concert version, so this may be the case.
The review that I found of the first Chicago performance was written by Edward Moore, and it was overwhelmingly positive. Moore described the Rite of Spring as being revolutionary, and he said that it would forever change “the subject of music” to people who saw the performance. Moore did point out that the Rite of Spring is “inconceivably ugly” compared to music of the past, but he did not reject the piece outright like some people had at the premiere in Paris. Moore implied that the audience felt similarly to him when he said that “the audience sat in dead silence during the brief intermission. Perhaps they were stunned. At any rate they were impressed.” This is quite the contrast from the Paris premiere, where there was supposedly so much noise from the audience that the music couldn’t be heard. I’m curious as to why Chicago reacted so differently to the piece. Was it entirely because it was the concert version and not the ballet, or were there other factors that contributed to the outrage at the Paris premiere?