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Stravinsky in a Car Park…

25 July 2011

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On Saturday night, UI missed a fascinating event put on by friends of my friends: Stravinsky in a car park (otherwise known as The Rite of Spring Project). Surrounded by DJ sets (including from Gabriel Prokofiev, whose Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra premieres in the NYO Prom), a scratch band of over 100 players performed The Rite of Spring in a disused car park in Peckham. This is a pretty logical extension of the organisers’ activities at Cambridge and the general culture of artistic ingenuity that pervaded there: a Mozart string quintet involving trumpet, trombone, and accordion, by a group ordinarily playing gypsy-infused dance; operas with original music and lyrics put on in bars and cellars (and soon to debut at the Edinburgh Fringe); the list could easily go on. Richard Morrison rightly wrote about the event in Friday’s Times: sadly the article is behind Rupert Murdoch’s paywall, but it can be found here.

Morrison slightly over-eggs the revolutionary quality of the car park endeavour, mostly because he over-estimates how “repelled” my generation is by “the fusty etiquette of concert halls”: this, I think, is less a reaction against what we’ve inherited, and more simply an attempt to make it our own. Here are Morrison’s money quotes:

“I’ve been writing about the arts for 35 years now, and the resolve with which resourceful young musicians are dumping the ancestral conventions of their art-form strikes me as the most exciting development in classical music for decades, if not centuries. At last it seems that someone is reaching out to a generation that’s repelled by the fusty etiquette of concert halls and opera houses yet thrilled by the virtuosity and power of old music when it’s presented in much less formal spaces… How refreshing that a generation tainted by nothing except enthusiasm, daring, virtuosity and idealism is blazing onto the scene. And how apt if The Rite of Spring, which started one artistic revolution a century ago, should now herald another.”

From what I hear from people who attended, the event was a real success. Less formal the location might be, but respecting silence was still the order of the day, and nobody needed to wander between the players, drink in hand (an experiment the Arensky Chamber Orchestra recently tried – Boulezian’s review is here). The atmosphere can easily be summed up by saying that one cellist played in his wifebeater. The playing is acceptable, more than so for a student orchestra (scrappiness, shall we say, pointing out Stravinskian dissonance) and features some extremely expressive phrasing. What’s not to like, with playing so vivacious?

Here’s the video, in HD and with very good sound: you can even hear the trains going past. Check out, especially, the ‘Dance of the Earth’ section, from 14:40 on:

As I wrote in a discussion of Norman Lebrecht’s nonsense about Two Boysthe future of classical music is far from bleak. Well done to all concerned.

Other things to round up include news that the person roped in to direct the 2013 Bayreuth Ring is someone nobody’s ever heard of (see here or here). And Jeremy Denk has joined the rest of us in wondering what on earth Tom Service is on about.

(Photos copyright Michael Derringer.)

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