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    Stravinsky Inscribes a Page from His Controversial Ballet, The Rite of Spring, to Conductor Leopold Stokowski

    Igor Stravinsky Autograph Musical Manuscript Signed. One page, 10.75" x 13.75", Paris, July 20, 1929. Contains forty-five bars of music from Stravinsky's famous ballet, Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring), in both treble and bass clefs. Additional notations are made in both red (ink and pencil) and blue (pencil only). Stravinsky, one of the dominant composers of the twentieth century, has inscribed at the lower right corner to his friend, British conductor Leopold Stokowski, in French [translated]: "Souvenir for L. Stokowski / [signed] Igor Stravinsky / Paris 20 VII / 1929." Smoothed folds and moderate toning along the edges does not detract from the overall beauty of the piece.

    The premiere performance of The Rite of Spring in Paris at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées on May 29, 1913, was scandalous. As the music rose and the dancers began their performance, the audience began to hiss. A near riot broke out in the crowd as two factions began to fight with each other. They soon turned on the orchestra itself, throwing anything they could get in hand. At least forty people were ejected before the beginning of the second part. Reviews were mixed. In his letters, fellow composer Giacomo Puccini, who attended a later performance, called the music "cacophonous" and "the work of a madman."

    Nine years later, in 1922, conductor Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra provided the American premiere (music only) of the controversial piece. In 1929, two months after he received this manuscript from Stravinsky, Stokowski proposed including The Rite in a radio broadcast on November 3, 1929, the second in a three part series and the first commercially-sponsored broadcast of a symphony in American history. Orchestra manager Arthur Judson, who was also the founder of CBS radio, had reservations about the performance and responded to Stokowski's request in a letter dated September 23, 1929, saying, "I am frankly afraid of the Stravinsky number on the second program. Millions of people who have never heard an orchestra are going to 'listen in. They are going to be greatly pleased with the first number, but after about five minutes of the Stravinsky they are going to say 'Oh, hell!' and turn off the radio. For this reason you will probably lose about ninety per cent of your second audience, and will also find that a certain portion will not tune in for the third program." Stokowski insisted and won out.

    Stokowski (1882-1977) directed the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1912 until 1941. He was an anonymous benefactor of Stravinsky's, giving his friend approximately $6,000 between 1923 and 1925.

    Reference: Jack McCarthy. 2013. The Philadelphia Orchestra. (accessed August 4, 2014).

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