May 7, 2023

Prokofiev, Quintet in G Minor, Op. 39

Read about the students performing this work today.

Cirque Quintet Biography

Bizet, L'Arlésienne Suite No. 2

The music from Bizet's L'Arlésienne (The Girl from Arles) was originally composed to accompany a play of that name written by French author Alphonse Daudet. Set in the southern French town of Arles, L'Arlésienne tells the story of a young peasant named Fréderi, who falls in love with a mysterious woman – but ultimately loses her to another man and descends into madness.

The play premiered in 1872 to decidedly mixed reviews. While the drama itself faltered and closed after a handful of performances, the music was well received. Bizet created an arrangement of select movements for a full orchestra – after initially being limited to the resources of a small theater ensemble – and set the stage for his music, particularly the now-famous “Farandole,” to well surpass the reputation of the theatrical production.

Bizet died at age 36 in 1875, mere months after the premiere of what, unbeknownst to him, was to become his most enduring composition, the opera Carmen. Following his death, his friend and colleague Ernest Guiraud acquired some of his scores and began issuing arrangements and suites of some of Bizet’s work. L'Arlésienne Suite No. 2 was one of these suites, and it has become one of the most popular representations of his work.

– Leah Branstetter

Sarah Gibson, Can’t Never Could: A Fantasy for Two Pianos and Orchestra

From the composer:

Can’t Never Could is a fantasy for two pianos and orchestra. As an alumna of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra—I was the orchestral pianist—I had a blast thinking about what sort of orchestral colors, techniques, or ideas would have excited me as a young composer sitting in the middle of an orchestra during rehearsals and performances. With this in mind, I decided to give each instrumental family a virtuosic section which challenges what one might normally do in traditional repertoire. These changes in orchestration trigger the changes in form as the duo pianists (my piano duo, HOCKET) interact in fantastical flourishes around the orchestral material.

– Sarah Gibson

Stravinsky, Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring)

Stravinsky, Diaghilev and The Rite of Spring

The Rite of Spring, one of the landmarks of 20th-century music, was the final work in a trilogy – along with The Firebird (1910) and Pétrouchka (1911) – that Igor Stravinsky composed for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. It was during completion of The Firebird that Stravinsky received his inspiration for The Rite of Spring:

I had a fleeting vision which came to me as a complete surprise, my mind at the moment being full of other things. I saw in imagination a solemn pagan rite: sage elders, seated in a circle, watched a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring. Such was the theme of the Sacre du Printemps.

The dress rehearsal for The Rite of Spring took place without incident (Stravinsky created a piano duet version of the score for rehearsals). However, the May 29, 1913, premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was quite another story. Members of the audience began jeering during the very first bars of the prelude. Matters only worsened when the curtain rose on, according to Stravinsky, "knock-kneed and long-braided Lolitas jumping up and down."

Others present during one of the most infamous moments in music history attested to actual physical altercations between audience members. Throughout the performance, conductor Pierre Monteux, according to Stravinsky, "stood there apparently impervious and nerveless as a crocodile. It is still almost incredible to me that he actually brought the orchestra to the end."

Stravinsky received his vindication when, on April 5, 1914, Monteux led a Paris concert performance of The Rite of Spring:

The hall was crowded. The audience, with no scenery to distract them, listened with concentrated attention and applauded with an enthusiasm I had been far from expecting and which greatly moved me. Certain critics who had censured the Sacre the year before now openly admitted their mistake. This conquest of the public naturally gave me intense and lasting satisfaction.

– Ken Meltzer