The Rite of Spring at 100

If any piece can be said to define the twentieth century, it’s Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.  The first performance took place almost exactly a year and a month before the first blows of the Great War, and the work’s reputation has continued to grow, leading to a new edition of the score in 2000, and a new boxed CD set of 38 different recordings (!) issued in 2013.

For all the fame of the Rite, there remains a surprising amount of misinformation about its publication and various editions.  Last week I heard an online reviewer state that Stravinsky reorchestrated the work in 1947.  My preferred recording states that it’s of the original 1913 version.  And I saw online an ad for a score purporting to be a reprint of the 1913 version.  Another CD review stated that conductors have the option of choosing between the 1913, 1921, and 1947 versions.

What all of these have in common is that they are all incorrect.  Stravinsky did not reorchestrate or revise the work in 1947.  There has never been an orchestral score of the 1913 version, so there can’t be a performance of that version, nor a reprint of it.  And there are not three different versions of the work.

There was a new edition of the Rite published in 1947, but it was largely a corrected edition, definitely not a reorchestration or revision by the composer.

Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that Stravinsky did recompose his early ballet Petruchka in 1947, revisiting and revising every measure.  And he also created a new suite from Firebird in 1945.  (As a side note, the 1945 Firebird Suite was published by a pop music house which promised to put its lyrics writers to work creating pop songs to the melodies, hoping for some Billboard Top 40 activity.  Stravinsky accepted other unusual commissions in those years, including one from the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and one from the Woody Herman Jazz Band.)

But there was no revising of The Rite of Spring.  A new edition was prepared in 1947, but this reflected an undertaking to correct the error-filled score, using marginal notes Stravinsky had made during his own performances as well as corrections made by other conductors.  To imply that Stravinsky revised the work in 1947, as many reviewers do, is simply incorrect.

Here is a listing of the significant editions of The Rite of Spring:

1913:  First performance.  Orchestral score was never issued.  1913 and 1914 performances were based on a manuscript full score.  A facsimile of this score is to be published in June 2013, making it available for the first time ever.

1921:  First publication of an orchestral score.

1929:  Revised and corrected orchestral score, issued in 1929 but, for some reason, still showing a 1921 date.  This was the basis for all performances for the next 20 years and for all reprint editions.  A recording or reprint calling itself the “original edition” is likely to be based on this publication.

1947:  New publication, revised and corrected based on notes made by Stravinsky and other conductors.

1967:  Corrected publication of the 1947 edition.  This edition is now considered the standard publication.

2000:  Newly edited publication based upon the 1929 edition, and incorporating thousands of corrections.  This edition has become widely preferred among U.S. orchestras.  For copyright reasons, it can’t be sold or performed outside the U.S.

These are the available editions, along with current prices and Pepper product numbers:

1929 edition (Dover Publications reprint):  Pepper #5869839 – $8.95

1967 edition (Boosey & Hawkes:  Pepper #5558721 – $39.95

2000 edition (E.F.Kalmus, (U.S. only)):  Pepper #7247166 – $95.00

1913 full score in facsimile (Boosey & Hawkes):  Pepper #10345357 – $200.00

Read Part 1:  The Rite of Spring:  An Appreciation

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