Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is an odd piece that’s also oddly well-known, in part because it was featured in Disney’s Fantasia. But less well-known about the ballet and orchestral piece Rite of Spring is that its composer was an admitted anti-Semite—though how concerned we should be is still a matter of debate.
In 1989, in the august pages of the New York Review of Books two Stravinsky scholars engaged in a heated exchange on the subject. They agreed that a young Stravinsky wrote to his publisher saying, “I am surprised to have received no proposals from Germany for next season, since my negative attitude toward communism and Judaism—not to put it in stronger terms—is a matter of common knowledge.”
One of the writers, Robert Craft, was not shocked by Stravinsky’s bigotry because “anti-Semitic remarks between White Russians, like anti-goy remarks between Jews, are not invariably, or even usually… expressions of deep hatreds.” The other, Richard F. Taruskin, argued that Stravinsky’s anti-Semitism ran much deeper and survived his 1939 immigration to America.
Regardless, Stravinsky’s intriguing music is worth celebrating. His bigotry – not so much.
See a performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring: