Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for The Rite of Spring

Dr. Bob Prescribes Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (1912)

“What Right Had He to Write This Thing?” A happy vernal equinox to everyone and sundry! Yes, technically the first day of spring in 2023 was yesterday, March 20. But I was taught that the first day of spring is usually March 21, and so we are honoring it today with its eponymous masterwork, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The Rite – composed in 1912 and premiered in Paris on May 29, 1913 – was new and different, and it inspired people to say the darndest things. For example, the following poem appeared in the Boston Herald on February 9, 1924, following a performance of The Rite in that city: “Who wrote this fiendish Rite of Spring?What right had he to write this thing,Against our helpless ears to flingIts crash, clash, cling, clang, bing, bang, bing?And then to call it Rite of Spring,The season when on joyous wingThe birds’ harmonious carols singAnd harmony’s in everything?He who could write The Rite of Spring,If I be right, by right should swing!” Igor Stravinsky composed The Rite of Spring for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes when he was thirty years old. Even if he had never written another piece of music, Stravinsky would […]

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Music History Monday: A Riotous Rite

May 29 was an incredibly rich day in music history. So much to write about, so little space! Check it out. On May 29, 1801 – 216 years ago today – Joseph Haydn’s final masterwork, The Season, received its public premiere at the Redoutensaal: the still-extant great ballroom in the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) in central Vienna. (FYI: Wikipedia gives the date of this premiere as being May 19. Incorrecto!) For our further information, among the audience was Haydn’s one-time “student”, Ludwig van Beethoven. 157 years ago today – on May 29, 1860 – the composer Isaac Albéniz was born in Camprodón, Spain. Albéniz was a brilliant pianist and as evidenced by his suite for piano Iberia (written between 1905-1909), a composer of genius. May 29, 1910 saw the death of Mily Balakirev in St. Petersburg; May 29, 1922 saw the birth of the composer Iannis Xenakis in Braila, Roumania. Finally – because I cannot not mention it before going on – May 29 marks the 320 anniversary of the assassination of the 44 year-old Italian castrato Giovanni Grossi (known popularly as “Siface”). One of the most famous singers of the entire Baroque era, Siface met his end on May 29, […]

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