home | contact | sound samples | discography | calendar | reviews and testimonials | photos and press materials | site map | mailing list sign-up

classical: biography | performance programs | repertoire lists | educational talks | film: “Beyond 88 Keys”
jazz: biography | performance programs | tune lists | originals jazz charts | educational talks
off-stage: writings on music | blog | teaching | wedding music | non-music interests


Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and the Music of 1911

a lecture-demonstration with pianist Michael Arnowitt

Pieces discussed:

Sergei Rachmaninov - Etude-tableaux in D minor, op. 39 no. 4
Bela Bartok - Allegro barbaro
Maurice Ravel - Valses nobles et sentimentales, opening section
Arnold Schoenberg - no. 2 and 6 from Six Small Piano Pieces, op. 19
Igor Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring, first two sections

The music Igor Stravinsky wrote in 1911 for his ballet “The Rite of Spring” is generally considered to be the most influential composition of the entire twentieth century. In this special lecture-demonstration, Michael Arnowitt explores some of the fascinating creative details of Stravinsky’s landmark work of genius, along with piano pieces all written in the year 1911 by Maurice Ravel, Arnold Schoenberg, Bela Bartok, and Sergei Rachmaninov.

Michael Arnowitt’s favorite period of music and world history, 1911 was a crossroads time between the old and the new. With the Romantic era in its twilight years, fresh and original music was emerging everywhere – impressionism in France, various national styles in Hungary, Russia, and other countries, and the first atonal music from Schoenberg in Vienna and America’s own Charles Ives.

Much of this music reflected the turbulence of the times, as empires and aristocracies fell from power, public unrest grew from the burgeoning women’s and workers’ movements demanding social change, and important new technologies were born such as the car, the airplane, and electricity. This turmoil and ferment spilled over into the arts world, and many important pieces of music of the age received a scandalous reaction at their premiere. Pianist Michael Arnowitt will perform and discuss great music he has selected from 1911, bringing to life this vibrant and extraordinary time.

2013 marks the exact centennial year of the famous riot that took place at the premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in Paris in May of 1913. The Rite’s colorful music still seems dynamic and exciting, and its imaginative sounds not only influenced 100 years of classical composers, but can be heard throughout today’s popular culture.



Lisa Schnell, Associate Dean, Honors College, University of Vermont
“...the renowned pianist and composer, Michael Arnowitt, delivered a plenary lecture/recital to the Honors College first-year class (and others). Arnowitt’s wonderfully engaging lecture and his moving demonstration of pieces by Sergei Rachmaninov, Bela Bartok, Arnold Schoenberg, and finally Igor Stravinsky – in an absolutely virtuosic transcription of the Rite – explored the year 1911 ... Arnowitt’s fascinating lecture painted a picture of a very turbulent period in European history and the way in which the turmoil caused by things like the women’s and workers’ movements and the birth of new technologies like the electric dynamo and the automobile extended to the arts world where the challenge of such massive change was expressed in innovative and edgy ways by artists like Stravinsky and Picasso and Virginia Woolf, often prompting feelings of extreme discomfort in a public that had become accustomed to the lush, rounded textures of the Romantic era.
      A very appreciative first-year class responded to Arnowitt’s presentation with a resounding ovation and a request for a kind of encore – a piece of his own composition. He did; it was completely wonderful, and all in all, one of the most memorable and truly moving plenaries of the fall.

From an audience member’s letter:
“Your Stravinsky is a gem! With those subtle nuances of dynamics you are able to delineate registers within registers; there is always a clear-cut differentiation of voices in your presentation of this work. You are truly one of the very most gifted pianists I have ever heard. You are able to program concerts that very few pianists would dare to tackle...”