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Stravinsky and "The Rite of Spring" - article by Robert Craft


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#16 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 08:06 PM

Thanks for posting the link, dirac.  I'm glad to see Robert Craft is still going at 90 and as interesting as ever, even for one like me who's not quite got all the technical chops to get everything out of what he lays out, like Stravinsky's choreographic blueprints.  Maybe the composer's own reminiscences, forty-six years later, of the time of Le Sacre's composition would be interesting companion reading.  The only online version of the text of his essay, "Apropos Le Sacre du Printemps" I could find today is buried in this long page:

 

http://www02.us.arch...60bost_djvu.txt

 

Once on the page, search it on the word "apropos", and you have it:

 

 

...  I was guided by no system whatever in "Le Sacre du Printemps."

When I think of the music of the other composers of that time who 

interest me — Berg's music, which is synthetic (in the best sense), and 

Webern's, which is analytic — how much more theoretical it seems than 

"Le Sacre." And these composers belonged to and were supported by 

a great tradition. Very little immediate tradition lies behind "Le 

Sacre du Printemps," however, and no theory. I had only my ear to 

help me; I heard and I wrote what I heard. I am the vessel through 

which "Le Sacre" passed.

 

And IIRC, Balanchine's response to being asked what he thought of Bejart's Sacre was, "You can't do it, but it's the best one."  He didn't think all music was capable of choreography.

 

Anyway, having read that comment before one of my visits to New York, I took advantage of the opportunity to see Bejart's company perform it, and I agree with those who admire it.  I'm sure that was well before Taylor's staging appeared in 1980, a few years before Balanchine's final decline.  I don't know whether he commented on that, but it's the other staging I enjoy.  The Hodson/Archer effort, the only other one I've seen, looks to me like just that, too desiccated to be rewarding, I'm afraid, an effect reinforced by reading the  material contemporaneous to Sacre's origin in Robert Gottlieb's great anthology, Reading Dance.



#17 dirac

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Posted 19 July 2013 - 02:33 PM

You're very welcome, and thank you for that link. It does appear, however, that Craft's account and interpretation are being questioned, and not only about the gay affairs business:

 

 

None of this strongly suggests sexual consummation. The tone and content intimate instead the kind of close yet platonic male friendships that Stravinsky had throughout his life (including with Mr. Craft).

 

Other bits of substantiation are even less plausible. In the book Mr. Craft says that Stravinsky sent a nude photograph of himself with an erection to Delage. (“I think he’s making that up,” Ms. Levitz told me. “I’ll believe it when he reproduces it.”)

 

 



#18 Quiggin

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Posted 19 July 2013 - 09:35 PM

Great find, Jack, thanks. It looks like it's from a 1959 Saturday Review.

 

I thought it was interesting what Stravinsky said about Monteux's conducting, that "he never cheapened Le Sacre ... he was always scrupulously faithful to the music," since Monteux sometimes is cited as saying he didn't like the piece.

 

And while in Memories and Commentaries Stravinsky says that Massine's choreography for the 1921 revival was "excellent, incomparable clearer than Nijinsky's," here he says,

 

 

Music and dancing were better coordinated this time than in 1913 — they could hardly have been otherwise — but the choreography (by Massine) was still too gymnastic and Dalcrozian to please me. I decided then that I prefer "Le Sacre" as a concert piece.
 

 

Also interesting that Stravinsky pointedly says that doesn't need the constraints of musical theory to compose. And yet Berg does do a pretty decent violin concerto – and doesn't Agon stand in a cage of artificial rules.

 

*

 

Regarding Stravinsky's proposed bisexuality, why are people taken aback rather than finding it charming that he had a brief affair with Ravel? Support of gay rights only goes so far – doesn't seem to extend to one's artistic heroes. There it's still a stigma.

 

And what was Glenn Gould's remark?

 

 

At a book signing last week in New York, Craft deflected a question about the chapter on Stravinsky’s sexuality, directing a reporter to his wife, Alva Craft. She said that some of this material had been familiar to the couple in piecemeal fashion, but only now does it start to give a complete picture. She recalled one meeting in which her husband introduced Stravinsky to Glenn Gould and the composer made a sly remark about the pianist's appearance.

 

from WQXR:

 

http://www.wqxr.org/...he-was-so-what/



#19 dirac

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Posted 20 July 2013 - 07:10 AM

Regarding Stravinsky's proposed bisexuality, why are people taken aback rather than finding it charming that he had a brief affair with Ravel? Support of gay rights only goes so far – doesn't seem to extend to one's artistic heroes. There it's still a stigma.

 

 

I honestly don't think that would bother the critical observers quoted in the NYT article unduly. They're questioning the evidence, and so far Craft hasn't produced much in the way of it, as the WQXR piece acknowledges. These are pretty big claims. The questions aren't limited to private lives:

 

He misrepresents aspects of Nijinsky’s dancing. He writes that “nothing came of” a Ballets Russes visit to the educator Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, but in fact Marie Rambert then left Dalcroze to become Nijinsky’s assistant in teaching the “Rite” to the dancers.

 




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