Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Monday 15 July 2013

Summer rites

No prizes for guessing where this is.

Appropriately for July 14th, a programme of French - or French-based - music by a French orchestra. It might sound a bit dustily academic (ballet music from different periods played on instruments as they were at the time rather than standard modern ones), but whether it was the period instruments or the sprightly tempi, the music sounded very fresh and cleaned of old varnish, especially old warhorses from Delibes and Massenet.

These, and pieces from earlier periods, set out a context (of the conventional, polite society view of "exotic" folk music, duly adjusted to fit the expectations of the theatre-going public) for the star item of the night.

The huge leap to the rawness of the Rite of Spring's native - and startlingly modernist - presentation of Russian folk myths and music made clear why there was a riot at the first performance. Even now - and especially in this re-creation of Stravinsky's original version - it's hard to believe that was a hundred years ago; a pity the hall wasn't full (at least in the expensive, polite society, seats), but the cheers and stamping of the final applause made up for that.

No stars, though, for the person who coughed in the opening bassoon solo (not me, I hasten to add).

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