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New Haven Independent: “Rite” On Time

New Haven Independent
By Robert Heltzl

Spring brings with it birth, creation, change, and a sense of renewal. In Igor Stravinsky’s legendary work, “Rite of Spring,” all such sentiments are undoubtedly present, but his creation is accompanied with the sublime horror and forceful sense of composition that only a master artist can summon. When it debuted in Paris 100 years ago, the piece spawned a riot, to boot.

What a pleasure then that our city could behold RiteNow: A Centennial Celebration of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”, a powerful tribute in which eight modern composers rendered the original piece in new form, with conducting by the graceful virtuoso Paolo Bartolameolli, the same man who commissioned this updated wonder to begin with.

The performance took place at Woolsey Hall Sunday night. Click on the video for a sampling of the sounds from the rehearsal, as well as interviews with key participants.

Paolo Bortolameolli, a Yale 2013 School of Music graduate, originally commissioned the pieces (and raised $10,000 for the performance on Kickstarter). He conducted the 85-piece Zephyrus Project Orchestra at Sunday’s one-night-only performance of the eight pieces. (Read more about the Project and the backgrounds of the participants here.)

To the newcomer, classical music such as Stravinsky’s might seem intimidating and unfamiliar. But after a few moments in Woolsey Hall Sunday night, as the atmosphere started to build, you realized that this is where you belonged.

This realization was further driven home when one of the eight composers, Matthew Welch, marched through the darkness to the stage as, accompanied by most of the orchestra, he fearlessly played bagpipes with green glow sticks dangling from them.

Beginning a show this way held all the promise of a grand evening. And it delivered.

Having interviewed all but one of the eight composers the day before the performance (I’d catch the Elusive One later on the day of the show) while in the midst of rehearsal, I saw that that the styles of the young artists were as honed as they were original. No single composer’s answers came anywhere close to matching the others’ when asked about what drew them to “Rite of Spring.” This heightened the diverse splendor of the event eight-fold.

The event’s co-producer, Justin Tierney, remarked that music from the same era as “Rite of Spring” “often can sound dated,” but that the asymmetrical rhythms of Stravinsky’s work, among other qualities, keep it “eternally fresh” and by its prolific legacy immune to the rusting process of time. When Tierney’s dual works “NYSA I & II” flowed from the talented fingers and breaths of the Zephyrus Project Orchestra, his understanding of the timeless nature of Stravinsky was well-realized. Tierney created two movements as his contribution to the production, motivated in part by his desire to make it mesh with his fellow composers’ works.