NACO Live: The Rite of Spring

with the NAC Orchestra

2022-06-09 20:00 2022-06-10 22:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: NACO Live: The Rite of Spring

In-person event

NACO Spring Offer: Bring a friend to a NACO concert in the 2021-2022 season and receive 50% off both of your tickets – that’s two seats for the price of one! Offer valid for a limited time and only for select NACO performances. Discount available on regular priced tickets only and cannot be combined with other offers. Conductor: Alexander Shelley 
Guest artist: Colin Currie (chamber percussionist) World premiere; Commissioned for Colin Currie by...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
June 9 - 10, 2022

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Last updated: June 16, 2022

NICOLE LIZÉE Blurr is the Colour of My True Love’s Eyes
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring




Aeriality is Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdóttir’s second work for large orchestra. Commissioned by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, it was composed between 2010 and 2011, with the world premiere given by the ensemble conducted by Ilan Volkov in November 2011, at Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík. The piece has since been performed internationally and has established Thorvaldsdóttir as a striking and distinctive voice in contemporary music.

On the work’s subject and title, Thorvaldsdóttir notes:

Aeriality refers to the state of gliding through the air with nothing or little to hold on to—as if flying—and the music both portrays the feeling of absolute freedom gained from the lack of attachment and the feeling of unease generated by the same circumstances. The title draws its essence from various aspects of the meaning of the word ‘aerial’ and refers to the visual inspiration that such a view provides. ‘Aeriality’ is also a play on words, combining the words ‘aerial’ and ‘reality’, so as to suggest two different worlds; ‘reality’, the ground, and ‘aerial’, the sky or the untouchable.

Musically, she describes Aeriality as being “on the border of symphonic music and sound art,” with “sound-textures combined—and contrasted with—various forms of lyrical material.” As she further elaborates:

Parts of the work consist of thick clusters of sounds that form a unity as the instruments of the orchestra stream together to form a single force—a sound-mass. The sense of individual instruments is somewhat blurred, and the orchestra becomes a single moving body, albeit at times forming layers of streaming materials that flow between different instrumental groups. These chromatic layers of materials are extended by the use of quartertones to generate vast sonic textures. At what can perhaps be said to be the climax in the music, a massive, sustained ocean of quartertones slowly accumulates and is then released into a brief lyrical field that almost immediately fades out at the peak of its own urgency, only to remain a shadow.

In line with her commentary, the piece traces a long arc from “reality” to “aerial”—as composer-musician Anne Lanzilotti has aptly described—through a slow-moving progression from one tone (F-sharp) to another (C) and finally to air sound. Enroute to the climax, the orchestra’s players contribute individually to the overall soundscape, with each holding a sustained pitch that Thorvaldsdóttir instructs in the score to be thought of “as a fragile flower that you have to carry in your hands and walk the distance on a thin rope without dropping it or falling.” After accumulating on 46 distinct pitches, the chord discharges into the “lyrical field”, a moment of passionate release that the composer likens “to clouds clearing up the sky, revealing the beauty that lies behind the mass.” Gradually, the orchestra shifts towards a drone pitch of C, ultimately dissipating into air at the work’s close.

Nicole Lizée

Blurr is the Colour of My True Love’s Eyes

As her current biography notes, Canadian composer Nicole Lizée explores in her works such themes as “malfunction, reviving the obsolete, and the harnessing of imperfection and glitch to create a new kind of precision.” She’s particularly fascinated by “the glitches made by outmoded and well-worn technology and captures these glitches, notates them, and integrates them into live performance.” These topics of interest are taken up again in her latest piece for solo percussion and orchestra, a NACO and BBC co-commission for Colin Currie entitled Blurr is the Colour of My True Love’s Eyes,

Tonight’s performance is the work’s world premiere; it will have its European premiere this summer at the BBC Proms, by Currie and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra led by Alpesh Chauhan.

Lizée shares the following description of her piece:

Blurr is the Colour of My True Love’s Eyes is inspired by certain techniques found in stop motion, film, and photography—particularly those that have potential for corruption and error, i.e., freezing, extreme and misuse of zoom and blur, dropped frames, image burn-in/ghost images, light leaks, and multiple exposures. This concerto uses percussion and orchestra to sonically represent and embrace these erroneous ‘events’.

Stop motion is an animation technique in which objects are physically manipulated in small increments between photographed frames to create the illusion of independent motion. While the art form has become slick through the use of computer-generated imagery (CGI), it is the earliest forms of stop motion that I find the most fascinating. Central to creating stop motion is the black frame where the ‘trickery’ is carried out, unseen. Motion or animation is made possible by interruptions in the chain of images. During this interruption the animator modifies the objects off camera in tiny increments, which the audience does not see. The darkness is necessary to create the illusion of continuity. But the goings-on during those unseen moments, which can extend for an indefinite amount of time, can be the most interesting. This work celebrates that darkness or black frame.


The Rite of Spring

In his 1936 autobiography, Igor Stravinsky recalled having a “fleeting vision” in 1910 as he was completing his ballet score The Firebird for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes: “I saw in my 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.” He proposed it to Diaghilev as the subject for another ballet, then turned to Russian painter Nikolai Roerich to help him flesh it out. Also an archaeologist with a deep fascination for early Slavic history and ancient religion, Roerich was instrumental in the shaping and creation of the ballet’s narrative, and designed the sets and costumes for the original production.

On May 29, 1913, The Rite of Spring premiered at Paris’s Théâtre de Champs-Elysées. It provoked strong reactions from the audience, though, as music scholars have proved, not to the extent of a violent riot—a much-exaggerated claim by critics and concert promoters that has been perpetuated as a myth, even to this day. While accounts conflict on various details, what’s clear is that much of the performance was obscured by the audience’s noisy protestations—laughter, yelling, whistling, booing, and the like—to Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography. Featuring jerky gestures, stamping, and bizarrely complex group movements, it went against the aesthetics of traditional ballet. Stravinsky’s score was deemed brutal and incomprehensible, even though his command of the orchestra and his gifts for rhythm and melody were undeniable. More troubling and problematic was the racist commentary the dancing and the music elicited, with connections drawn to “primitive” and “savage” non-European cultures.

Since its premiere, The Rite of Spring has been performed primarily in the concert hall and is regarded as an icon of 20th century musical modernism. It bears noting what aspects make it a landmark work for its time. For one, it uses an expanded orchestral palette, with autonomous instrumental groups—including an enlarged woodwind section—juxtaposed and layered to create a vast variety of textures and sonorities. Players are also sometimes required to play at the limits of their instruments—for example, the opening melody is set in the bassoon’s high register, giving it an unusually strained timbre. The insistent repetition and development of melodic cells (fragments of Slavic folk song or approximations of it) alongside constantly driving rhythms, often with irregularly placed accents cutting across regular beat patterns, create a hypnotic atmosphere. Chords are combined and recombined to form complex, jarring dissonances that are applied with memorable effect—listen for the “stomping chord”, repeated no less than 32 times in succession, in “The Augurs of Spring”. In sum, the orchestra isn’t merely a backdrop for the ritualistic events occurring on stage, but an active participant.

Tonight, you’ll experience The Rite of Spring afresh in the Canadian premiere of a new critical edition of the score, completed in 2021 by Clinton F. Nieweg and James Chang. To help guide your listening and stimulate imagination, an outline of the ballet’s episodes is provided below, with Stravinsky’s descriptions taken from his notes to conductor Serge Koussevitsky for the 1914 Russian premiere of the work as a concert piece.

First Part: Adoration of the Earth

Quoted in an interview published the day after the premiere, Stravinsky described the Introduction as “the fear of nature before the arising of beauty, a sacred terror at the midday sun, a sort of pagan cry…And the whole orchestra, all this massing of instruments, should have the significance of The Birth of Spring.”

The Augurs of Spring: Dances of the Young Girls
“Some adolescent boys appear with a very old woman, whose age and even whose century is unknown, who knows the secret of nature, and who teachers her sons Prediction. She runs, bent over the earth, half-woman, half-beast. The adolescents at her side are Augurs of Spring, who mark in their steps the rhythm of spring, the pulse beat of spring.”

Ritual of Abduction
“Young girls arrive from the river in single file. They begin the Dance of the Abduction.”

Spring Rounds
Groups of young men and women confront each other, with the girls “forming a circle which mingles with the boys’ circle.”

Ritual of the Rival Tribes
“The groups separate and compete; messengers come from one to the other and they quarrel. It is the defining of forces through struggle, that is, through games.”

Procession of the Sage
“A holy procession leads to the entry of the wise elders, headed by the Sage, who brings the games to a pause and blesses the earth”

The Sage
“The games stop and the people wait, trembling, for the blessing of the earth. The Sage makes a sign to kiss the earth.”

Dance of the Earth
“The people break into a passionate dance, sanctifying and becoming one with the earth.”

Second Part: The Sacrifice

Mystic Circles of the Young Girls
“Night. The young girls engage in mysterious games, walking in circles. One of the maidens is chose for the Sacrifice. Fate points to her twice: twice she is caught in one of the circles without an exit.”

Glorification of the Chosen One
“The girls dance a martial dance honouring the Chosen One.”

Evocation of the Ancestors
“In a brief dance, the young girls evoke the ancestors.”

Ritual Action of the Ancestors
“The Chosen One is entrusted to the care of the wise old men.”

Sacrificial Dance (The Chosen One)
“The Chosen One dances to death in the presence of the Ancestors. When she is on the point of falling exhausted, the Ancestors recognize it, and glide towards her like ravenous monsters, so that she may not touch the ground in falling; they raise her and hold her towards the sky.”

Program notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley


  •  ©Marco Borggreve
    Guest artist Colin Currie
  • Nicole Lizée ©
    Composer Nicole Lizée
  • Anna Thorvaldsdóttir ©Anna Maggý
    Composer Anna Thorvaldsdóttir
  • Alexander Shelley ©Curtis Perry
    Conductor Alexander Shelley
  • National Arts Centre Orchestra ©
    Featuring National Arts Centre Orchestra

NAC Orchestra

Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
**Elaine Klimasko
Marjolaine Lambert
Jeremy Mastrangelo
Manuela Milani
Frédéric Moisan
*Oleg Chelpanov
*Martine Dubé
*Erica Miller
◊Katelyn Emery
◊Marianne Di Tomaso
◊Danielle Greene
◊Zhengdong Liang
◊Maria-Sophia Pera
◊Yu Kai Sun

Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant solo)
Mark Friedman
Carissa Klopoushak
**Edvard Skerjanc
Karoly Sziladi
Leah Roseman
Emily Westell
*Andéa Armijo Fortin
*Renée London
*Heather Schnarr
◊Jeanne-Sophie Baron
◊Kimberly Durflinger
◊Lindsey Herle
◊Austin Wu
◊Jingpu Xi
◊Xueao Yang

Jethro Marks (principal / solo)
David Marks (associate principal / solo associé)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal / assistant solo)
Paul Casey
**Ren Martin-Doike
David Thies-Thompson
◊Tovin Allers
◊Daniel McCarthy
◊Alexander Moroz
◊Emily Rekrut Pressey

Rachel Mercer (principal)
Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Timothy McCoy
Marc-André Riberdy
Leah Wyber
*Karen Kang
◊Peter Ryan
◊Tsung Yu Tsai

*Joel Quarrington (guest principal)
Hilda Cowie (acting assistant principal)
Vincent Gendron
Marjolaine Fournier
*David Fay
*Paul Mach
◊Philippe Chaput
◊Logan Nelson
◊Hector Ponce

Joanna G'froerer (principal / solo)
Stephanie Morin
◊Christian Paquette
◊Arin Sarkissian

Charles Hamann (principal)
Anna Petersen
◊Myriam Navarri
◊Kira Shiner

Kimball Sykes (principal)
Sean Rice
◊Juan Olivares
◊Timothy Yung

​Christopher Millard (principal)
Vincent Parizeau
*Joelle Amar
◊Chia Yu Hsu
◊Thalia Navas

Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Lauren Anker
Elizabeth Simpson
Louis-Pierre Bergeron
◊Connor Landers
◊Corine Chartré Lefebvre
◊Roberto Rivera
◊Shin Yu Wang

Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
◊Jose Juan Hernandez Torres
◊Daniel Lehmann

Donald Renshaw (principal)
Douglas Burden
Colin Traquair
*Steve Dyer
◊Micah Kroeker
◊Wing Kwong Tang
◊Collins Sanders

Chris Lee (principal)
◊Alec Rich

Feza Zweifel (principal)
*Alexander Cohen

**Jonathan Wade
*Andrew Johnson
◊Michael Carp 
​◊Jacob Kryger

Angela Schwarzkopf*

Nancy Elbeck

Corey Rempel

Meiko Lydall

*Additional musicians
**On leave
Non-titled members of the Orchestra are listed alphabetically
◊ Mentorship Program Participants