This book takes us back to the first performances of five famous musical compositions: Monteverdi's Orfeo in 1607, Handel's Messiah in 1742, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in 1824, Berlioz's Symphonic faulaslique in 1830, and Stravinsky's Sacre du printemps in 1913. Thomas Forrest Kelly sets the scene for each of these premieres, describing the cities in which they took place, the concert halls, audiences, conductors, and musicians, the sound of the music when it was first performed (often on instruments now extinct), and the popular and critical responses. He explores how performance styles and conditions have changed over the centuries and what music can reveal about the societies that produce it.
Kelly . . . is something of a rarity-an academic who can tell a good story. . . . Kelly's inclusion of relevant documents-letters, newspaper clippings, long-ago interviews, ticket counts-and the list of recommended recordings help make First Nights a book that should prove engrossing to general reader and specialist alike.