Walk down the aisle of the Saenger Theatre Saturday night expecting to be greeted by harmonious sounds of spring and you just might find yourself in for a jolting surprise. Saturday night the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra closes out its 2012-2013 season with Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” This ballet score first premiered in 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, causing an unforgettable bang. The debut incited uproar from the audience in response to the audible suggestions and visual representations of sacrificial rituals. Throughout the performance, the music twirled and turned in a frenzied fashion—the ballet dancers pushing themselves into as many uncomfortable positions as the instruments.
Once the initial aftershock of the evening subsided, the piece’s brilliance became widely recognized and loudly applauded. “The Rite of Spring” opened the door to a new sense of freedom for composers, and left many conductors saying, “I want to conduct this piece someday.” It even landed in Walt Disney’s film, “Fantasia.” Today, the work remains noted as one of the top musical masterpieces of the 20th century.
This spring, in celebration of its 100th birthday, many orchestras are performing “The Rite of Spring,” including the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Peter Rubardt. Rubardt has been acting Music Director of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra for the past 16 years. Leading up to this final show of the Symphony’s Masterworks Series, Rubardt took a moment to further elaborate on the selections of the evening.
IN: Why did you select “The Rite of Spring” as the close to the season’s Masterworks Series?
RUBARDT: I like to close with a bang, and there is no piece that is more of a bang than the Rite! Orchestras all over the country are playing it this spring because of the 100th anniversary.
IN: How does the evening’s performance compare to the “Russian Spectacular” earlier this month?
RUBARDT: This will be just as spectacular, but in a different way. There is no guest soloist for this performance, but rather, every player in the orchestra is featured.
IN: “The Rite of Spring” was certainly a controversial piece during its opening night in Paris, 100 years ago. What is your attraction to this piece?
RUBARDT: It is bold, brash, compelling, exciting, and at times even disturbing. The sound is rich and complex, bursting with rhythmic drive.
IN: Can you describe the pieces by Wagner and Debussy that will open the program?
RUBARDT: This is one of my all-time favorite programs. All three pieces were radical, groundbreaking experiments that ultimately shaped the course of classical music. Wagner pushes the limits of chromatic harmony to the breaking point. After it was written, composers had to find new paths forward. Debussy experimented with rich modal colors and lush orchestration. Stravinsky explored primitivism and highly complex rhythmic patterns. All three pieces represent composers at the cutting edge of new musical ideas.
IN: Why did you select the UWF Women’s Chorus to be a part of the evening?
RUBARDT: Debussy wrote his Nocturnes to include a women’s chorus.
IN: How long does it take to prepare for such a performance?
RUBARDT: We will rehearse for a total of 10 hours, starting a few days before the concert. But many of us have been working on these pieces for our entire professional lives. I first studied “The Rite of Spring” as a teenager, and have worked on it seriously at least a dozen times since. It is a lifelong obsession!
IN: On the whole, have you been pleased with the response to this season’s Masterworks Series?
RUBARDT: Pensacola has the best audience I’ve ever played for.
THE RITE OF SPRING
WHAT: The Pensacola Symphony Orchestra performs Wagner’s “Prelude and Liebestod from ‘Tristan und Isolde,’” Debussy’s “Nocturnes,” and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 27
WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox
COST: $20- $82
DETAILS: For more information or individual ticket purchases, call 850-435-2533. Tickets may also be purchased online at pensacolasymphony.com. Tickets for a 2 p.m. dress rehearsal of the performance are also available and may be purchased at the door, by phone or in person for $5.