The story behind the scandalous first performance of one of the most influential works in the history of music, as part of the stunning Landmark Library series.
On 29 May 1913, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, a new ballet by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, received its premiere. Many of the cultural big names of Paris were there, or were rumoured to have been there: Debussy, Ravel, Proust, Gertrude Stein, Picasso. When the curtain rose on a cast of frenziedly stamping dancers, a near-riot ensued, ensuring the evening would enter the folklore of modernism. While it was the dancing that triggered the mayhem, Stravinsky's score contained shocks enough, with its innovations in form, rhythm, dissonance and its sheer sonic power. The Rite of Spring would achieve recognition in its own right as a concert piece, and is now seen as one of the most influential works of the 20th century.
Gillian Moore explores the cultural climate that created The Rite, tells the story of the creation of the music and the ballet and provides a guide to the music itself, showing how a scandalous novelty of 1913 became a 21st-century concert staple. As well as considering its influence on 20th-century classical composers, she probes The Rite's impact on film music (including scores for Star Wars and Jaws); its extensive influence on jazz musicians (including Charlie Parker) and by artists as diverse as Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa and The Pet Shop Boys.
About the Author
Gillian Moore is Director of Music at London's Southbank Centre. She writes and broadcasts regularly about music and can often be heard on BBC Radio 3. She was awarded a CBE for services to music in 2018.
'Gillian Moore's succinct, lucid and beautifully illustrated book explains the history of this unique musical phenomenon with a keen sense of its broader significance'Literary Review
'[Gillian Moore] offers a stylish and concise account of the event ... It's one of the strengths of Moore's finely illustrated monograph that it supplies chapter and verse, not only on the score's background and artistic context but also on the amazing subsequent reach of music whose ancestry was so esoteric that Stravinsky could claim it had virtually no tradition behind it and had come to him out of the blue'Guardian
'With its fascinating illustrations and welcoming tone, this is a non-specialist guide by a writer who tells a rattling good tale ... Moore's musical and choreographic commentaries are jargon-free and accessible, and her judgments adroit, 5*'BBC Music Magazine
'In her excellent, lavishly illustrated The Rite of Spring, Gillian Moore explains what all the fuss was about, how music and ballet were created, and why Stravinsky's music has had such an enduring influence'Choice magazine
'If Moore doesn't convince you of the epochal significance of Stravinsky's brilliant, outrageous fire-starter, you must be damn hard to please. With an intoxicating tone which combines academic authority, rich, detailed description and pure thrill, she explains the history of the piece, the wild myths and characters which come with it, and the explosive impact of its first riotous performance in Paris, 1913'Big Issue
'From a Cocteau line drawing to a Roerich imagined portrait of prehistory to Walt Disney, illustrations consistently stimulate and illuminate; Moore's enthusiasm and trademark clarity are everywhere'Classical Music
'[A] compact, beautifully designed and expertly written vade-mecum to The Rite'The Oldie
'What Gillian Moore offers is something rather different from these earlier books. Hers is a thoroughly approachable study of The Rite which can readily be enjoyed by readers without technical knowledge [...] but who are seeking a deeper understanding of this pivotal work in the history of music'Gramophone
'Though only 208 pages long, it's a more complete picture than usual, written in a clear style, with useful references and footnotes. The handsome, artfully done book includes many photos and colorful images to add to the pleasure of reading ... Moore recalls a time when audiences for ballet, opera and classical music felt free to become more visibly involved in a performance. It's a time worth remembering, and Gillian Moore, award winner and Director of Music at the Southbank Centre, describes it well'Classical Music Daily.