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Igor Stravinsky

(1882—1971) Russian-born composer, resident in the US from 1939


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(b Oranienbaum, 1882; d NY, 1971).

Russ.‐born composer, conductor, pianist, and writer (Fr. cit. 1934, Amer. cit. 1945). Son of Fyodor Stravinsky. Went to St Petersburg Univ. 1901 to study law but increasingly spent time in mus. pursuits. Spent much time at Rimsky‐Korsakov's house, becoming his pupil in 1903. Began 1st sym., 1905, also pf. sonata. When his short orch. pieces Fireworks and Scherzo fantastique were played in St Petersburg in 1909, they were heard by Diaghilev, who had by then formed the famous Ballets Russes in Paris. He invited Stravinsky to compose a ballet on the legend of The Firebird, Lyadov having failed to meet his deadline, for 1910 season. Its success made Stravinsky world‐famous, and was followed by Petrushka (1911) and by The Rite of Spring (1913), the f.p. of the latter causing a riot. By then, Stravinsky was regarded as the leader of the mus. avant‐garde. With the Russ. Revolution of 1917, resulting in confiscation of his property, and the financial troubles of the Diaghilev co., Stravinsky thought of forming a small touring th. co. to present inexpensively mounted productions. The result was The Soldier's Tale (L'Histoire du Soldat), for chamber ens.; it also enabled him to combine 2 of his main interests, Russ. folk‐rhythms and Amer. jazz. His ballet Pulcinella, composed for Diaghilev in 1919–20, was a ‘re‐composition’ of mus. attrib. to Pergolesi and initiated the ‘neo‐classical’ phase in Stravinsky's career. His last overtly Russ. works of this period were the ballet Les Noces and the opera Mavra. Settling in Fr., he wrote a series of works in which the spirit of the 18th cent. is invoked but with unmistakably 20th‐cent. harmonic and rhythmic flavouring. The pf. conc., in which he played the solo part, the Capriccio for pf. and orch., the vn. conc., the ballet Apollo Musagetes, the Sym. in C major and, most of all the Hogarthian opera The Rake's Progress (1951), are the finest flowers of this facet of Stravinsky's art. On the other hand, the opera‐oratorio Oedipus Rex (1926–7), for which Cocteau wrote the text, is 19th cent. and Verdian in its heroic melodies. In 1939 he settled in the USA, moving eventually to Los Angeles where the climate suited one who had contracted tuberculosis in 1936–7. His first major ‘American’ work was the Symphony in 3 Movements of 1945. Yet another turning‐point was the ballet Orpheus (1947), which had led Stravinsky to study of Monteverdi, and a meeting with the young Amer. cond. Robert Craft, who (besides an enthusiasm for Stravinsky) combined interest in the Baroque period with intense sympathy for the 2nd Viennese Sch. of Schoenberg, etc. Stravinsky had lately shown awareness of serialism, particularly as practised by Webern, and, spurred by Craft, his work now began to reflect these new interests, as in the Canticum Sacrum of 1955, the Threni of 1958, the ballet Agon, and Movements for pf. and orch. In 1962 he was invited to return to Russ., a triumphant tour ending in his reception by the then Soviet leader Khruschev at the Kremlin. In his final years he wrote short, bare works, many of them religious in feeling and form, at the opposite pole from the opulence of his early successes. He is buried in the island cemetery of San Michele, Venice, near to Diaghilev, as he wished.

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Subjects: Music.


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