The Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra will perform one of the most difficult and unique orchestral pieces in its history during its Jan. 22 concert, “A Time to Inspire.”
The infamous piece “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky is typically performed as a part of the ballet of the same name. The work is so difficult that conductor and director of music William Intriligator has been practicing his conducting, something that at this point comes naturally to him.
“I don’t have to study the actual conducting deep patterns – that’s something that just happens naturally,” Intriligator said. “But for ‘The Rite of Spring,’ I have to be disciplined to conduct through the meters to make sure I’m not gonna screw it up because it’s constantly changing.”
The piece is not only complicated, it’s highly unusual, even by today’s standards, though it was originally performed and written more than 100 years ago. Each instrument is playing something outside of its usual purpose, like how the piece starts with a solo bassoon playing a high octave melody.
“Rite” jarred audiences when it premiered in Paris in 1913. It is modern, though the composition is inspired by the dances of Russian pagans. For a sense of how intense this piece can become, in the ballet, there is a section of it dedicated to a pagan dancer’s requirement to dance themselves to death.
There won’t be dancers for this performance, but Intriligator prefers it that way.
“Some of the piece works equally well, or perhaps better, as a concert piece, the way we’re doing it without any dancers,” Intriligator said. “You can just focus on the orchestra, how incredible and how challenging it sounds.
“The orchestra really is sort of center stage in this piece.”
This is the first time that the orchestra will perform the piece in full size, bringing in extra musicians for a total of 95, the largest on-stage performance they have held in five years. That makes rhythmically coordinating each instrument’s part even more difficult.
But Intriligator has longed to perform this piece since he first came to love it in his college years. Every professional musician knows it, and knows just how difficult it really is.
At one point, playing “The Rite of Spring” was reserved for the top tier of worldwide philharmonics, so to have this piece performed here in Cheyenne is a statement about the talent of the orchestra.
Also in the schedule is another unusual piece, “Afro-American Symphony” by William Grant Stills, who incorporated blues and spirituals into classic symphonic structure. It’s rare to hear a banjo in a symphony, but there’s one to be found among bluesy keyboard melodies in this unique performance.
Ysmael Reyes, the orchestra’s principal flute, will perform solo in “Concertino for Flute and Orchestra.” Reyes has performed solo several times in the past, but this performance fits well with the rest of the program.
Composer Cécile Chaminade debuted the piece in Paris around the same time Stravinsky did “The Rite of Spring,” but the two couldn’t be more different. “Concertino” presents a light and lovely flute melody, giving an insightful comparison to how avant garde “Rite” was with its dark, primitive sound.
“It’s kind of like a showpiece for an orchestra. It’s a proving piece,” Intriligator said. “It’s almost like a piece that an orchestra plays to prove that they are at a really high level, so that’s why I’m excited to show how proud Cheyenne can be of this orchestra.”