Using a plethora of primary source material drawn from letters, sketches, and score manuscripts, Charles M. Joseph proposes that Stravinsky's ballets offer a "looking glass" (247) through which we can chart his developing compositional vocabulary. Joseph's emphasis on Stravinsky's use of musical movement, via his employment of pace, rhythm, meter, and silence, substantiates this assertion. It is important to note that one-third of Stravinsky's works were composed for ballet, and more than half of his remaining compositions have also been choreographed. Stravinsky's Ballets charts a trajectory from "the artistic mentor Diaghilev originally set out to be" (111) to Balanchine, who [End Page 128] "provided [Stravinsky] with a lifelong confidant" (111). As such, the book is a packed volume, with more than enough examples to ensure that dance is placed at the center of Stravinsky's oeuvre.
Joseph is a recognized expert in Stravinsky's music and dance works, particularly regarding the composer's longstanding collaborations with Balanchine. He has previously produced three books on Stravinsky, including the award winning Stravinsky and Balanchine (2002) and Stravinsky Inside Out (2001). Although the new book is well researched, lovingly written, and presents much detail, it is marred by a lack of consistency in methodology and structure. In addition, Joseph draws extensively on his earlier volumes, as he notes in the introduction (xvi). This is disappointing to any scholar, who will find a good deal of overlap with his earlier books. The thick description of Stravinsky's compositions, although demonstrating detailed archival research and using copious quotations from primary sources, limits what Joseph is able to offer by way of analysis. Finally, the relegation of some significant compositions, including Renard, Pulcinella, and Les Noces, to a single chapter limits the extent to which Joseph can analyze the music-dance relationships of these ballets.
The debate into how music and dance are related in Stravinsky's ballets is raised in the introduction. In particular, Joseph asks: "Why . . . would Stravinsky devote an inordinate amount of his creative energy over the breadth of his long career to such a historically bereft genre?" (xv). He answers the question by providing much evidence of Stravinsky's collaborative opportunities and genuine interest in the other arts. Through the course of the book he guides the reader toward the conclusion that Stravinsky considered collaboration a partnership. In his final chapter, Joseph makes this certain by quoting the composer, himself: "Music and Dance should be a true marriage of the separate arts, a partnership, not a dictatorship of one over the other" (Stravinsky 1934, quoted on p. 234).
Joseph writes in a clear and enthusiastic manner while conveying his awe of Stravinsky's ballets. The text is thick with description of Stravinsky's creative process, stage sets, scenarios, and collaborative partners. Stravinsky is cited often and at length, providing the reader with ample evidence of the composer's opinions. Joseph navigates Stravinsky's changing perspectives across his letters, autobiography, and conversations with Robert Craft. The scope of primary source material with which Joseph engages is impressive. He also raises useful questions that critically engage with the central themes concerning Stravinsky's collaborative partners, notions of time and space, and stylistic advancements. These themes are illustrated in Stravinsky's letters and in the reception of the various works. Joseph argues that Stravinsky developed his collaborative process in order to extend his ideas to all elements of a music-dance production. He also includes speculative, rhetorical questions that ponder the "what if" moments of Stravinsky's career: for example, "How much progress would Stravinsky have achieved without the home Diaghilev provided?" (135). Joseph gives credit to Diaghilev's initial guidance, which in many ways liberated Stravinsky to work so successfully across music and dance.
Through the book's nine chapters, Joseph carefully details the creation of Stravinsky's works, first by describing individual compositions, then by exploring the primary source evidence and analyzing what contributions and decisions Stravinsky made within the collaborative teams. After exploring...