Stravinsky's Rite of Spring

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  • Topic: Igor Stravinsky, Ballets Russes, The Rite of Spring
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  • Published : April 16, 2011
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Igor Stravinsky’s

Rite of Spring

-MUS 337

-Emily Costin
In the early 20th century, many composers were beginning to not be so pleased with the status quo of what Romanticism had set for them. Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Claude Debussy began to experiment with new ways or writing music. They began to experiment with new sounds, textures, idea’s, compositional techniques, etc. They, as well as other composers, reached success in their own ways, yet the world of music was still set in their generally Romantic ways. It took a true compositional giant to rock the world of music forever, and such a piece of music came on May 23rd, 1913 with Igor Stravinsky’s strikingly famous ballet The Rite of Spring. The ballet premiered in Paris, and the performances primitive dance moves, dark music, and somewhat scary demeanor sent the audience into a full blown riot, and simultaneously into a whole new era of music. The Rite of Spring is undoubtedly one of the literary masterpieces that shifted classical music from the Romantic style into what we now consider the Modern style. Igor Stravinsky was born in Jume of 1886 in Oranienbaum, Russia. Stravinsky grew up n a musical household, his father being one of the leading basses of his day. Being surrounded by music at a young age, he started piano lessons at age nine, yet he was never considered much of a prodigy like expected. He was scorned from learning theory and composition at a young age, as well as for spending most of his time improvising rather than practicing. Even in a musical household, Stravinsky was never given free reign with his desires to compose. Stravinsky himself considers one particular event in his life to be his “most treasured memory” (Stravinsky, 1962). At a young age, he was taken to the hear Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #6 (Pathetique). Stravinsky found himself completely enraptured by this music that he later on stated that this moment is considered the one moment in his life that his love for music began. From that moment on, Stravinsky desired to throw himself into the world of music, yet his father was completely against his desires of music. Instead, his father wished for him to be a lawyer. Stravinsky struggled in school, usually skidding by the skin of his teeth. He also struggled to please his father. These struggles lead him to law school, which was very unsuccessful. Stravinsky failed most of his law school classes, and spent most of his time studying composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Wagner, Bizet, and Gounod (Teachout, 2000).

After his stint in law school, Stravinsky received the opportunity to study with one of the leading Russian composers of his time, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. After the death of his father, Stravinsky began to study with Rimsky-Korsakov. During his studies he was exposed to an eclectic variety of styles and composers, such as Debussy, Franck, Dukas, etc. All of these composers, all of which compose in a vastly different style, helped to meld Stravinsky’s future cosmopolitan style.

After the death of his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky permiered his first big hit, Few d’Artifice, otherwise known as Fireworks. This piece was written for the wedding of Rimsky-Korsakov’s daughter, and though it was received very well, it more importantly sparked an important business partnership as well as friendship with the Ballet Russes’ manager, Sergei Diaghilev (Thomas, 2010).

Diaghilev’s curiosity was struck with this new composer’s idea’s. He then asked Stravinsky to write a ballet for him and the Ballet Russes to perform. With this new friendship and business deal started an all time success for Stravinsky. His first commissioned piece for the Ballet Russes was Firebird. This ballet, taking on the more popular Romantic aesthetic of writing, became a raving success for Stravinsky, as well as the Ballet Russes. This being Stravinsky’s first big hit...
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