The Santa Cecilia auditorium (2,800 seats) was nearly full, with many
'under 30s'. This means that one hundred years after its 'scandalous'
debut at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Le Sacre is still a major
attraction. Even in Rome, where since 1923 the National Academy of Santa
Cecilia has performed it, in concert versions, in twenty two seasons (with a dozen conductors), and the Teatro dell'Opera has it in its repertory as a fully staged ballet.
Vasily Petrenko showed that the
thirty-five minute composition is even now shocking and subtle, yet still radical. Stravinsky and his
choreographer Diaghilev were very crafty impresarios. They intended to
shock with a blend of primitive themes coming from old Uralian songs, very violentpassages, an intenserhythm as well as a delicate descriptive
passage. Le Sacre, especially, is music for the body and the
muscles, not music for the mind (as most eighteenth century music). Even now, it has the body effect of a rock concert. Petrenko emphasized these
aspects; thus they were quite distant from Lorin Maazel and Daniele
Gatti, who have recently conductedLe Sacre in Rome. The audience was enthusiastic.
The first part of the concert was quite
intriguing. Debussy's Printemps had not been performed in Rome for
nearly twenty years. It is a fifteen minute composition initially thought
for piano and chorus by a young 'fellow' of the French Academy in Rome; it was performed in Tony
Palmer's edition for grand orchestra and chorus. This is springtime in Rome as
seen through Massenet's lenses with some anticipation of what
Debussy will become.
Rachmaninoff's Cantata is a late Romantic piece on a subject similar to that of Zemlinsky's A Florentine Tragödie. Never
performed before in Rome, it is a short (fifteen minute) monodrama with a
happy ending. Alexei Tanovitski was the protagonist: a betrayed husband forgiving his wife (he wanted to stab her to death) due to the Spring atmosphere. Both pieces were well received.