Igor Stravinsky

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Last updated: June 15, 2019

“I am in the present. I can not know what tomorrow will bring forth.

I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve and I serve it in all lucidity. ” –Igor Stravinsky Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (June 17/5, 1882 – April 6, 1971) lived by this mantra. As a 20th Century composer, pianist, and conductor, music was his truth. Time magazine even named him as one of the 100 most influential people of the century.

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Music and its livelihood were the fiber of his life and he continued to serve his art through his own personal trials, triumphs, and tribulations until his own very end.Talent surrounded Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky from the beginning but his enthusiasm and support did not. Born in Oranienbaum (later renamed Lomonosov in 1948) Russia and raised in Saint Petersburg, to an operatic bass singer, Fyodor Stravinsky. Igor was one of four children born to Fyodor and Anna Kholodovsky-Stravinsky. Igor had three brothers two were older than he Roman and Yuriy, and one younger Guriy.

Roman died when Igor was fifteen years old. This was a huge tragedy for his whole family. Anna his mother loved to play the piano and sing too.Yuriy one of his elder brothers married Yelena Nikslyevna. Igor and Yuriy both struggled through their lifetimes with lung ailments including tuberculosis.

Igor struggled with tuberculosis for 6 years of treatment. Guriy was the youngest brother and died in 1917 from typhus. One would believe that when the singer’s son showed an interest in music that his father would give him all his support and guidance but that was not the case. In fact, young Igor Stravinsky was quoted in his autobiography stating that his childhood was troubled: “I never came across anyone who had any real affection for me. (Igor Stravinsky, “An Autobiography” (1936) Despite the lack of support, Igor began to study music in the form of piano lessons. In 1890, along with meeting his cousin and future wife Katerina Nossenko, Stravinsky saw a performance of the Tchaikovisky ballet “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Mariinsky Theater.

This was his first time seeing and hearing an orchestra and he fell in love with it. (www. answers. com) Something about the orchestral experience spoke to him awakened his love for the art of music and how it was composed.He began to study intensely, searching for all the great works to learn from.

At the young age of fourteen he has mastered Mendessohn’s “Piano Concert; in G Minor” and the next year he completed a piano reduction of a string quartet by Alexander Glazunov. (www. essentialsofmusic.

com) Amongst the abounding evidence of musical prodigy, Stravinsky’s family still pushed for him to obtain an education in law. He enrolled at the University of Saint Petersburg to become a lawyer in 1901.While attending he still studied music and by the time his father passed away in 1902 Igor had put his focus on musical studies. This caused his law studies to falter and affected his grades as well as the amount of credits he received. Although in the spring of 1905 the university closed due to the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, which prevented him from taking his law finals.

This resulted in Stravinsky graduating with only a half-course diploma in April of 1906. That was the last time his studies were divided. From that point on music was his full focus. www. wikipedia. org) During his law studies he received musical training as well as guidance from one of the leading Russian Composers of the time Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Besides regular studies and private recitals in which Stravinsky plated some of his own compositions, Rimsky-Korsakov also influenced Stravinsky’s decision to continue with his instead of entering the Saint Petersburg Conservatoire. Rimsky-Korsakov became a father figure to Stravinsky, teaching him not only music lessons but life lessons as well.

They were very close until lessons ended in year 1908 when Rimsky-Korsakov died. (www. wikipedia. org) While studying music with his mentor Stravinsky also found love with his cousin Katerina Nossenko.

They married on January 23, 1906 and immediately began their family with their first two children, and son named Fyodor (Theodore) who became an accomplished artist, born in 1907 and a daughter named Ludmilla, born in 1908. (www. wikipedia. org) “I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it. ” –Igor Stravinsky In 1909 Stravinsky’s career started to flourish.

Sergei Diaghilev quickly learned of Igor’s talent when he listened to the premiere of “Schezo fantastique” and treated to a private performance of “Fru d’ artifice (Fireworks)”. As the director of the Ballets Russes in Paris, Biaghilev was so impressed he immediately commissioned Stravinsky to complete some orchestrations as well as compose a full-length ballet score entitled “The Firebird”. (www.

naxos. com) In the Disney Pictures film Fantasia 2000 (1999) Firebird Suite, the 1919 version is the final composition illustrated in this film.Also in Disney’s original Fantasia (1940) Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” is featured and inspired the animators to envision the music as a tone poem about Earth’s evolution from its fiery molten days to the rushing torrents of waters, to the birth of living forms and simple sea life making its way to shore and evolving legs. Excerpts from “The Rite of Spring” also occur in the study of max Ernst in Max Ernst: Mein Vagabundieren.

Also the movie Jalousie (1991), has quotes from the composer’s cantata Les noces in the TV miniseries Cosmos (1980) and in the German film The Death of Maria Malibran (1971).Igor Stravinsky’s music has appeared in Raising Arizona (1987). He starred himself in a Canadian film called Stravinsky (1965) and in the United States documentary A Stravinsky Portrait that was also made in 1965. In 1910 when Igor Stravinsky and his family traveled to Paris to attend the premiere of “The Firebird” he met many notable musicians and composers of the time including Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. After triumphant reviews Stravinsky decided to move to Switzerland where he lived for the next decade. (1920) While in their new home they welcomed two more children.

In 1910 his second son, Soulima (Sviatoslar) or Sulima (there are several version of his name mentioned in different sources), was born and in 1913 his second daughter, Maria Milena, followed. (www. wikipedia. org) With the joy of expanding his family and career, Stravinsky also struggled with his wife’s illness from tuberculosis in 1914. Stravinsky had just completed three works for the Ballets Russes, Petrushka (1911), The Rite of Spring (1913), as well as Pulcinella, in which he collaborated with Picasso, when he made his conducting debut in Montreux. www. classical.

net) The Rite of Spring debuted on May 29th, 1913 at the Champs-Elysees in Paris. All audience members were so used to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake which is elegant, graceful and very traditional. Unlike this piece which is sharp, and unnatural choreography which did not win over the crowd.The audience got to upset that it eventually started a riot in which police were called and Stravinsky fled the scene before the show was even over. It is said to be a milestone in ballet’s history as it introduced difference styles of dance, music and stories. www.

essentialsofmusic. com) Tensions were also rising just before the start of World War I and luckily after a brief visit to Russia Stravinsky was able to flee before the borders were closed. Little did he know he would not return to Russia for close to fifty years. (www. naxos. com) “I am an inventor of music”. –Igor Stravinsky Igor Stravinsky has also published several books throughout his career, although most of them were always written with a collaborator and most times unaccredited.In 1936 an autobiography names “Chronicles of My Life” was written with the Walter Nouvel.

In 1939 his “40 Harvard University Charles Eliot Norton Lectures” was published in French with help by Alexis Roland-Manuel and Pierre Souvtchinsky, which is now titled “Poetique musicale” in 1942, then translated to English in 1947 called “Poetics of Music”. Robert Craft which whom had lived with Igor for several years had helped put together several interviews titled Conversations with Igor Stravinsky, which chronicled five volumes over those decades of friendship. www. wikipedia. org) In this significant move in his life Igor Stravinsky befriended and formed an artistic relationship with a Swiss philanthropist, Werner Reinhart. Reinhart offered financial assistance for the writing and first performance of “The Soldier’s Tale” conducted by Ernest Ansermet on September 28, 1918. Even through financial hardship, the flu epidemic and only one performance in Lausanne the music was highly regarded and Stravinsky dedicated the work to Reinhart and honored him by giving him the original manuscript.

www. classical. net)In 1920 Stravinsky moved to France where he formed a business and musical relationship with a French piano manufacturer, Pleyel. Pleyel served as an agent by collecting royalties for Stravinsky’s works and in return provided a studio to entertain friends and business associates as well as a monthly income. Stravinsky also arranged many of his early works for Pleyela.

Igor Stravinsky also moved into Coco Chanel’s villa in Paris amongst rumors of an affair with the fashion Vogel. (www. answers. com) In order to create there must be a dynamic force and what force is more potent than love? ” –Igor Stravinsky Although Stravinsky was married to Katerina Nossenko for 33 years, the true love of his life was Vera de Bosset (1888 – 1982). They met in February of 1921 in Paris while they both were married to other people.But while Katerina was institutionalized in a Swiss sanatorium located in Leysin for her confinement of tuberculosis, Stravinsky led a double life while having an affair with de Bossett which led to her leaving her husband in 1922. www. wikipedia.

org) During his latte years in Paris, Stravinsky developed some professional relationships with some key American figures which would prove beneficial later when he moved to the Los Angeles area to settle down. But before the big move Stravinsky had some major succession in Europe including his first concert of entirely his original tours in 1924. (www. classical. net) This success led to his first United States concert tour and the signing of his first recording contract in 1925 with Brunswick. (www. classical.

net)Over the next ten years success was overwhelming for Stravinsky. From conducting, playing, and composing new works. To performing some of his classics for new American audiences. And to working for new commissions with fresh talent. He also had a second tour in the United States and premiered a new work with his son Soulima (Sviatoslar) entitled “Concerto for Two Pianos.

” But as all this success kept rolling in heartache was right around each corner. Lyudmilla was diagnosed with tuberculosis and Katerina’s illness was getting worse.In 1938 Lyudmilla died in Paris while Stravinsky was in Italy.

The following year Katerina died then Stravinsky’s mother died as well. Shortly after their deaths Stravinsky left for New York where he eventually moved to Hollywood, California and gave a series of lectures throughout the United States at different colleges and universities. Shortly after Stravinsky arrived in the states Vera followed and they were married in Bedford, Massachusetts in 1940. Stravinsky and his new bride settled in Beverly Hills and applied for citizenship in the United States.Stravinsky also completed his Harvard lectures and returned to his roots of composing and conducting with new gusteau in the forms of new inspiration from the many life changes he had experienced in the states. Part of these new, inspired pieces included the conducting of his work throughout the United States including a new work, “Symphony in C”. Also while working on a variety of other projects, Stravinsky decides to dabble in several film projects which, unfortunately, do not come to fruition. (www.

classical. net)Many fans and admirers of Stravinsky’s work were looking to him for inspiration and collaboration at a time when he was reinventing himself as an American citizen, which became official in 1945. (www. wikipdeia. org) As he moved away from his Russian roots when he worked with many greats, including Sergei Prokofieff and Bela Bartok. He also began to dabble with French and American greats such as Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, and Aaron Copland. While he enjoyed the experience of working with some of musician’s greats he soon felt the need to expand his repertoire and change styles yet again.He did this by working with Anton Webern in many major works.

(www. classical. net) After becoming a United States citizen Stravinsky began working with the poet W. H. Auden which led to the operatic composition of “The Rake’s Progress”. After its first performance in 1951 Stravinsky was inspired to compose many other works in this style.

Major works included “Canticum Sacrum (1955), “Agon” (1957) which was actually inspired by a collaborative composition with Dylan Thomas that never occurred due to his death, and “Threni” (1958). (www. classical. net)So in the process of being a trend setter and globe trotter, Stravinsky’s works not only inspired and showed Russian Nationalism and influences but showed an even wider range of inspiration in his ballets. He later used the techniques of complex rhythms and polytonality but those techniques ended quickly when Stravinsky returned to Switzerland and produced pieces that often did not include strings.

He continued this small ensemble styling in Paris but began to add some of the old nuances of previous forms and methods creating the musical period he is best known for – the neo-classical era.Late in life he changed styles again including twelve-tone and serial compositions resulting in a great deal of religious works. (www. essentialsofmusic.

com) Stravinsky did always keep true to his clarity of sound and use of orchestration and to bear the roots of his musical works was definitely what he is known for and will remain his trademark of his career. “The church knew what the psalmist knew: Music praises God. Music is well or better able to praise Him than the building of the church and all its decoration; it is the church’s greatest ornament. ” – Igor StravinskyDespite taking in a few pupils, Stravinsky was an inspiration to many young American composers. A Stravinsky disciple, Nadia Boulanger, is partly to thank due to her virtual “Stravinsky School” of American Neo Classical Composition in Boston. (www. naxos. com) “A good composer does not imitate; he steals.

” –Igor Stravinsky Stravinsky had run into troubles in Boston as well. His in conventional arrangement of the “Star Spangled Banner” let to an incident with the Boston police on January 15, 1944, Stravinsky was given a warning that a $100 fine could be imposed for any “rearrangement of the national anthem in whole or in part”.A myth soon arose stating that Stravinsky was supposedly arrested for playing the music. (www. essentialsofmusic. com) Naturally with all the success of Igor Stravinsky’s work many acknowledgements and awards were to follow.

What started as Stravinsky paying tribute to his mentors and inspirations had turned into up and coming artists as well as respected musicians in their own right admiring Stravinsky’s work and the crossing of boundaries. Many of these artists also worked with Stravinsky. Some of the collaborators included Picasso, Massine, Souvtchinsky, Antheil, Busoni, Kandinsky, and Klee to name a few. www. classical.

net) Stravinsky’s admirers were not limited to those in the music world. In 1954 he received the gold medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London. In the following year he conducted two works, “Canticum Sacrum” and “Von Himmel hoch” in Saint Mark’s Venice for the future Pope John XXIII. (www. wikipedia. org) In 1956, shortly after conducting the “Symphony in C” in Berlin, Stravinsky had a stroke. But it slowed him none as he continued his European tour as well as starting a new Biennale Commission.

(www. answers. com) Music in given to us with the sole purpose of establishing an order in things, including, and particularly, the coordination between man and time.

” –Igor Stravinsky While music was Stravinsky’s sole purpose of life, it also became his celebrity.In 1964 CBS Commissioned Stravinsky’s “The Flood” which debuted in 1962 during his most extensive world tour, not only covering the United States and Europe, but Eastern Asia, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Stravinsky also received the prestigious honor of dining with President John F. Kennedy only one year before his assassination. www.

naxos. com) “The real composer thinks about his work the whole time; he is not always conscious of this but he is aware of it later when he suddenly knows what he will do. ” –Igor Stravinsky In tribute to the fallen president, Stravinsky began work on a tribute piece he completed in 1964 entitled “Elegy for JFK. ” (www. classical. net) “A plague on eminence! I hardly dare cross the street anymore without a convoy and I am stared at whenever I go like an idiot member of a royal family or an animal in a zoo; and zoo animals have been known to die from stares. ¬– Igor Stravinsky 1965 Stravinsky continued his vigorous conducting schedule which includes a tour in Europe and a CBS film by Rolf Tieberman. After his doctor’s advice, in 1966 Stravinsky finishes his last full year of conducting.

The following year Stravinsky conducted for the last time in Toronto, Canada. In the same year he was hospitalized on two separate occasions due to bleeding ulcers and a thrombosis. While Stravinsky had retired from conducting he still worked tirelessly on arrangements such as “Two Sacred Songs” of Hugo Wolf.He also arranged Bach’s “Preludes and Fugues”. (www.

classical. net) Unfortunately in 1970, at a state of extreme physical decline, Stravinsky flew to Europe and settled in Evian, France where family and friends often visited and Lord Snowden photographed him. (www. answers. com) “The principles of the endless melody is the perpetual becoming of a music that never had any reason for starting, and more than it has any reason for ending. ” –Igor Stravinsky On April 6, 1971, at the age of 88, Igor Stravinsky died in New York City.

His funeral made prime time news; his coffin on a gondola going through Venice was shown news wide on the BBC. After a brief funeral service he was buried on the cemetery island of San Michele in Venice. His grace is close to the tomb of his long time friend, collaborator, and father figure Sergei Diaghilev.

(www. wikipedia. org) To sum up a career as essential and influential as Igor Stravinsky’s is a daunting task. How can one properly give credit to a man who is responsible for creating and/or strengthening so many styles of music?How can a man with so many talents be adequately acknowledged for them all? The best was I can give justice to Igor Stravinsky is to respect his talents and his words: “Conductors’ careers are made for the most part with “Romantic” music. “Classic” music eliminates the conductor; we do not remember him in it. ” –Igor Stravinsky Let us never forget the profound impact that Stravinsky had on composing, conducting, arranging, and most importantly, the absolutely adoration of music! I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge. ” –Igor StravinskyBibliography Stravinsky, Igor. An Autobiography.

G. Schirmer, Inc. , 1936. www. answers. com.

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boosey. com. Igor Stravinsky Timeline. 07 October 2010. www. classical.

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Igor Stravinsky. 07 October 2010. www. wikipedia. org.

Igor Stravinsky. 07 October 2010.


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