Saturday, March 16, 2013

When Stravinsky met Nijinsky

When Stravinsky met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot
by Lauren Stringer
Harcourt, 2013.  Unpaged.  Nonfiction

     Besides the fun of repeating their names together, When Stravinsky met Nijinsky . . . gives its readers a frantic glimpse into a revolutionary moment in music and dance history, the premiere of The Rite of Spring in a Paris theater in 1913. Ms. Stringer's story is well told and communicates, along with her frenzied illustrations, the (literally) riotous concert at which modern music and dance were born. Youngsters may be surprised to learn how deeply feelings once ran about the arts.  How something so totally different could not only cause anger and outrage on the one hand, to delight and passion on the other, but lead people to punch each other out in the aisles during the performance and then spill out into the streets to resume the fight. What this book cries out for is music.  The sunny yellow background seems not to communicate the fierce, primal, earthy nature of Stravinsky's music.  It would have been nice to have a CD included, but parents or teachers may want to play parts of the ballet to their kids/students alongside, say, some cuts from Tchaikovsky to show the stark contrast between classical ballet and what Stravinsky/Nijinsky created.  Some recreations of the original performance may be found on YouTube, and the notes at the end of the picture book explain more fully the history of the event.  When Stravinsky met Nijinsky . . . is a terrific gateway book, a starting point for an exploration of the roots of modern music and the nature of creative collaboration.

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