Igor Stravinsky was a young, virtually unknown composer when he was recruited by Sergei Diaghliev to create works for Diaghliev’s Ballets Russe. Firebird and Petrushka were composed first and then the seminal Le Sacre Du Printemps. Subtitled “Pictures Of Pagan Russia”, Le Sacre Du Printemps — or The Rite Of Spring — caused a scandal and a near-riot at the premiere on May 29, 1913. Almost as soon as the curtain rose, the audience began to react strongly to the performance, starting with whistles and proceeding to hisses and howls as the dancers appeared.
The ballet portrayed a pagan celebration in which a virgin sacrifices herself to the god of spring. Because of the shocking music, costumes and choreography, the protests continued and some 40 very vocal dissidents were ejected from the theatre. The ballet went on to its end, with all the house lights turned on and with angry patrons milling about. Coverage by the press was resoundingly negative and it was not performed again until the late 1920s. At Prince Mahidol Hall last weekend, Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra (TPO) opened with Thai traditional music. Then Maestro Alfonso Scarano, the conductor, welcomed his flute soloist, Massimo Mercelli, a very tall and robust man, seemingly rare for such a small instrument. His first offering was Francis Poulenc’s Sonata For Flute And Orchestra, followed by Krzysztof Penderecki’s Flute Concerto. Influenced by Stravinsky, Penderecki’s music has many novel textures, quite evident in this concerto. Notes often meander, repeatedly, until the percussion brings those notes to a loud and sudden stop. Ably abetted by Maestro Scarano and the TPO, Mercelli managed the leaps and lows of this difficult work seemingly without effort. The centrepiece of the evening was the above-mentioned Le Sacre du Printemps. With the TPO strings in often loud, machine gun-like staccato, the brass blaring and the percussion giving emphasis with loud drumbeats, one had no doubt that the audience of 100-years-ago was raucous with their disapproval. To the great credit of Maestro Scarano and the orchestra, they played this challenging piece cohesively, keeping the difficult rhythms and tempi in time, in tune and totally intact. It was clearly evident that it took hours of relentless rehearsal to present this work. The piece concluded with a loud “roar” and, so too, with a loud roar that erupted from the audience and who gave the TPO and Maestro Scarano their generous, well-deserved applause. Donald Graber