The Copyright of Spring

Yuja Wang sends her regrets:

Sacre causes scandal, AGAIN! Just like at the premiere in 1913, when catcalls and near-riot conditions erupted, Stravinsky’s iconic work is still causing tidal waves of controversy over a century later. My colleague Martin Grubinger and I have been notified that the Stravinsky estate will not allow our upcoming performance of Sacre in the adapted version in Europe, due to a potential infringement of copyright. We are very disappointed to learn this news, but have to respect their wishes. Unfortunately this means we have to cancel our upcoming performances in Dortmund and Luxembourg. The concerts in Ann Arbor and at Carnegie Hall in New York will go on as planned. We both deeply regret the position of the Estate and Publishers, but look forward to performing together in North America very soon.

For those keeping score:

Stravinsky continued to revise the work, and in 1943 rewrote the “Sacrificial Dance.” In 1948 Boosey & Hawkes issued a corrected version of the 1929 score (B&H 16333), although Stravinsky’s substantial 1943 amendment of the “Sacrificial Dance” was not incorporated into the new version and remained unperformed, to the composer’s disappointment. He considered it “much easier to play … and superior in balance and sonority” to the earlier versions. A less musical motive for the revisions and corrected editions was copyright law. The composer had left Galaxy Music Corporation (agents for Editions Russe de la Musique, the original publisher) for Associated Music Publishers at the time, and orchestras would be reluctant to pay a second rental charge from two publishers to match the full work and the revised “Sacrificial Dance”; moreover, the revised dance could only be published in America. The 1948 score provided copyright protection to the work in America, where it had lapsed, but Boosey (who acquired the Editions Russe catalogue) did not have the rights to the revised finale.

And presumably still doesn’t, seven decades later.


  1. Roger Green »

    20 October 2018 · 8:07 am

    This kind of hurts my head.

  2. Dan T. »

    20 October 2018 · 9:15 am

    U.S. and European copyright laws are different enough (especially for old works published under earlier laws that were more divergent from one another than the current-day treaty-inspired ones) that some things are in the public domain in one place and under copyright in another. However, the likes of Disney and Warner are working hard to ensure that nothing further ever makes it into the public domain; it’ll take a lot of lobbying to stop further extensions once the copyright of Mickey Mouse is in danger. However, it doesn’t look like they’ve managed to extend general U.S. copyrights this year (though they did pass a “music reform” bill that mucks around with the status of old songs), so absent any sudden congressional action, works from 1923 will become public domain at the end of this year.

  3. fillyjonk »

    20 October 2018 · 11:59 am

    IIRC, European Union copyright rules just recently changed for the stricter, and this could be part of the unintended consequences of that.

    (As I tell my Envt’l Policy and Law class: there can be no law made that doesn’t have unintended consequences.)

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