Magazine article Musical Times

Spring Awakening

Magazine article Musical Times

Spring Awakening

Article excerpt

The rite of spring: facsimile of the autograph full score Igor Stravinsky Edited by Ulrich Mosch Paul Sacher Stiftung/Boosey & Hawkes (London, 2013); xlvi, i46pp; £119. ismn 979 o 060 12535 5*

The rite of spring: facsimile of the version for piano four hands Igor Stravinsky Edited by Felix Meyer Paul Sacher Stiftung/Boosey & Hawkes (London, 2013); xlvi, ii8pp; £72. ismn 979 o 060 12553 9Avatar

of modernity: The rite of spring reconsidered Edited Hermann Danuser & Heidy Zimmermann Paul Sacher Stiftung/Boosey & Hawkes (London, 2013); 5oipp; £56. ismn 979 o 060 12554 6.

Stravinsky: discoveries and memories Robert Craft Naxos Books (London, 2013); vii, 359pp; £19.99, $34-98. isbn 978 i 84379 753 i.

he 19-year-old Shostakovich said it all in 1926:4 The Rite of Spring is a staggering piece. I have never heard such orchestral brilliance. Devilish sonority. The music itself is rather crude, but it captivates you completely.' This now seems rather more to the point than Jean Cocteau's artful image from 1918 of 'a symphony impregnated with savage pathos'. Today, commentators often claim that The rite's true legacy is to be found in defiantly unsymphonic, unpathetic music by Varèse or even Antheil rather than in Stravinsky's own later music. But David Schiff, discussing the Symphony in three movements in the Avatar of modernity essay collection, makes a shrewd point in suggesting that 'instead of squeezing The Rite into the narrower confines of his later style', Stravinsky 'allowed the earlier work to reinvigorate and expand the strict doctrines of neoclassicism'. If that process underlined The rites own limitations, well and good.

The centenary of The rite of spring's first performance in May 1913 has prompted a lavish commemorative exercise jointly promoted by Stravinsky's principal publishers and the principal custodian of the Stravinsky archives. There is not one Rite facsimile but two, neatly complementing each other with the message that the work's substance is as protean as the differences between orchestral and piano-duet layout make visually explicit: and in this era of electronic media and obsession with on-screen documentation, it is immensely rewarding to have hard, heavy, full-size copy to handle at leisure. As autographs annotated by printers as well as performers, these facsimiles speak for themselves, especially when reproduced with all the exactitude and attention to detail that the latest technology facilitates; though the presentation of the full score at full size in thick binding ensures that lifting, opening and studying the volume are not to be undertaken lightly. Of its nature, this document - introduced with scholarly meticulousness and clarity by Ulrich Mosch - stands in a complex symbiotic relationship to the 'corrected edition' of the work published in 1967, and recorded 'with changes incorporated from the original manuscript, 1913' in Robert Craft's 2007 performance with the Philharmonia Orchestra, now reissued on a CD included with the most recent of Craft's books about Stravinsky. This book has already been supplemented by an essay from the indefatigable 90-year-old about (among other things) 'Stravinsky's own instructions for dancing The Rite of Spring' (Times Literary Supplement, 21 June 2013). There are also major Äzre-mentioning volumes from Cambridge University Press - by Pieter van den Toorn and John McGinness (Stravinsky and the Russian period: sound and legacy of a musical idiom) and Graham Griffiths (,Stravinsky's piano: genesis of a musical language) - that have appeared too recently to be taken in by the contributors to the hefty volume of essays which accompanies the facsimiles. The size and appeal of this symposium are much enhanced by the number and quality of colour plates and photographs, and by an invaluable 26-page Rite chronology (1910-22) compiled and annotated by Felix Meyer.

The portentous canonisation of The rite as the 'avatar of modernity' inevitably risks ascribing a range and depth to the work that are foreign to its 'rather crude' nature. …

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