Rebellious Beauty: A Stravinsky Festival

Igor Stravinsky

Discover renegade composer Igor Stravinsky and the music that shocked, unified, and brought the world to its feet. Join Michael Tilson Thomas and the SF Symphony for an eye-opening, ear-stretching two-week festival that celebrates how one man orchestrated a daring collision of sound, movement, and design that transformed how we experience art. Rebellious Beauty: A Stravinsky Festival features extraordinary SF Symphony performances of the mythical The Firebird and the infamously riotous The Rite of Spring, as well as special pre-concert events including free screenings of Keeping Score: Stravinsky and performances by SF’s Art Haus Collective. Join us for a Stravinsky deep dive like no other.




Hear the Music of Stravinsky


Pers├ęphone is one of Stravinsky’s illuminating paeans to spring: all lyric leisure and grace, yet each note is still striking and fierce. The composer hinted at what we might especially LISTEN FOR: “I love the music, especially the flutes in Persephone’s final speech . . . and the final chorus. . . and I love, above all, the lullaby Sur ce lit elle repose [On this bed she rests.]”

    The Firebird

The first performance of The Firebird made Stravinsky a celebrity—for life. Its Parisian audience wanted a taste of the avant-garde, and with this ballet score he more than delivered. LISTEN FOR: Based on a fantastical Russian fable, Stravinsky’s colorful score takes advantage of each instrument’s specific sound to enliven individual characters. Try and pick out which instruments represent the Russian prince, his evil foe (a dark sorcerer), and the magical, glowing Firebird.

    (1947 revision)

When Stravinsky wrote the music to Petrushka, he imagined “a distinct picture of a puppet, suddenly endowed with life, exasperating the patience of the orchestra.” The vibrancy of this spirited score captures this to a T. LISTEN FOR: The puppet’s mad flurry provokes the orchestra to “retaliate with menacing trumpet blasts . . . resulting in a terrific noise that reaches its climax and ends in the sorrowful and querulous collapse of the poor puppet.”

    Violin Concerto

Samuel Dushkin, who premiered the Violin Concerto, recalled that one day at lunch, Stravinsky “wrote down [a] chord and asked me if it could be played. . . . I said ‘No.’” When Dushkin realized that it actually could be played, he called the composer, who completed the concerto in six months. LISTEN FOR:The chord that was so casually brought up at lunch begins each of the work’s four movements—Stravinsky called it his “passport” to the music.

   The Rite of Spring

The premiere of Le Sacre du printemps and the infamous audience riot that followed catapulted Stravinsky onto a path from which there was no turning back. He described this controversial piece as “unified by a single idea: the mystery and great surge of creative power of spring.” LISTEN FOR: There are many connections to folk music, including a Lithuanian tune that is the basis of the incredibly famous, astonishingly difficult high-pitched bassoon solo that opens the piece.

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See the Exhibit

StravinskyStravinsky in 1911

Stravinsky. He was the one everybody watched, the trailblazer, the pathfinder, the very exemplar of the 20th-century composer. Igor Stravinsky’s epochal collaboration with Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and his long association with the SF Symphony and its music directors is the subject of the September exhibit Stravinsky: The Man. The Myth. The Riot. Explore the exhibit online.

Visit the exhibit at Davies Symphony Hall from September 10–30 in the First Tier Lobby.

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Explore the Relationships


Michael Tilson Thomas was not only influenced by Stravinsky, he knew him. From the formative concert experiences of MTT’s youth when both he and the composer worked together and called Los Angeles home, to his many Stravinsky performances as a conductor, MTT’s memories of the master are something he cherishes. Get the insider info at a special pre-concert screening of Keeping Score: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring

Hear more about Stravinsky and his music from SF Symphony musicians.

Keeping Score: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring will be screened 90 minutes prior to the September 27–30 concerts only.

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Feel the Connections

Photo From Art Hous Collective
2017 performance at Burning Man
Photo by Tomas Loewy

The SF Symphony joins creative forces with Art Haus Collective, an organization dedicated to bringing edgy, spectacular performances of classical and contemporary works into unique spaces. In 2017, their performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring at Burning Man drew a crowd of nearly 10,000—making it one of the most popular events at Burning Man ever. Experience Stravinsky’s music through electrifying choreography as Art Haus Collective artists perform as part of this must-see pre-concert event.*

Art Haus Collective performance will be located in the First Tier Lobby, and begin one hour prior to the September 27–30 concerts only.

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Join the Conversation

Pre concert talk

Enhance your concert experience by arriving early for a compelling pre-concert Inside Music talk on Stravinsky with host Peter Grunberg, Musical Assistant to Michael Tilson Thomas. Mr. Grunberg is a principal collaborator on the Symphony’s Keeping Score project whose impressive musical background on and off stage includes performing as a piano soloist with the SF Symphony, and engagements at the Aix-en-Provence, Salzburg, and Tanglewood festivals.

Inside Music talks begin one hour prior to the concerts September 21–23 only. 


Experience the artistic legacy live at the concerts. MAKE IT A FESTIVAL by buying tickets to each week’s concerts!

**Not all pre-concert activities will be available at both concert weekends. We recommend that you buy tickets to each week’s concerts to fully enjoy this immersive experience.


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These concerts, a part of The Barbro and Bernard Osher Masterworks Series, are made possible by a generous gift from Barbro and Bernard Osher.