Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky was a pianist composer and conductor greatly revered for his contributions. He is regarded as one of the most popular and influential composers of 20th century. He was a multi-talented person who had proved himself as a great conductor and pianist and often performed at the premiers of his works. His works acclaimed wide popularity due to the stylistic diversity which had changed many conventional concepts of composing and pushed the boundaries of music. Stravinsky’s works were marked by distinctive rhythmic structure and he was widely revered for the same reason. He followed Neoclassicism and much of his works during this period was based on the traditions music forms like concerto grosso, fugue, symphony etc. and also confined intense emotions like detachment and also, were most often, dedicated to masters like J.S Bach, Tchaikovsky. According to him, "music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all." He wrote an Autobiography namely “Chronicles of My Life”. Read on to learn more about this legend.
Personal Life And Career
Born in Oranienbaum and brought up in Saint Petersburg, Stravinsky was Russian in Ethnicity. He was born to the couple Anna Kholodovsky and Fyodor Stravinsky on 17th of June, 1882. His childhood days were never a sweet memory for him as he felt to be neglected and hated. Music was the only thing that he was happy about and he picked up Piano lessons at a younger age. He was so passionate about music that he never missed any chance to listen to music.
In 1890, he happened to listen to Tchaikovsky’s famous ballot “The Sleeping Beauty”. This was the first time ever he came across an orchestra. No need to say, he drifted in mesmerism. He mastered Mendelssohn’s piano Concerto (G minor) and in the following year, he successfully attempted a piano reduction of Galzunov’s string quartets. Though he expressed his passion in music and wanted to pursue, the idea didn’t appear impressive to his parents. They wanted him to become a lawyer and he was enrolled to study law the University of Saint Petersburg in 1901. But he was not interested I that at all and attended only for a few classes, even less than 50 and hence, was ill-suited for it. However, he got a half-course diploma in law in 1906. After the death of his father he started concentrating more on music. Stravinsky met Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakove, the leading composer then in Russia, and on his advice Stravinsky refrained from entering into Saint Petersburg Conservatoire. He started learning from Rimsky-Korsakove and this continued until 1908.
Stravinsky got betrothed to Katerina Nossenko, his cousin, in 1905 and married her in 1906. This was against the Orthodox Church’s wish as marriage between cousins was not considered licit by orthodox customs. The couple received their first baby Fyodor in 1907 and second child Ludmilla in 1908. He performed his work Feu d'artifice (Fireworks) in Saint Petersburg in 1909 and Sergei Diaghilev, director of Ballets Russes, Paris, happened to see this performance and was quite impressed with it. Diaghilev assigned Stravinsky with the responsibility to compose a full-length ballet score. This work was named The Firebird and came out as a great success. The firebird was premiered in Paris in 1910 and for this he travelled to Paris. He decided to remain there for some time and took his family also along with him.
Stravinsky In Switzerland
He settled in Switzerland till 1920. He worked on three major compositions during this period. These works, namely Petrushka (1911) The Rite of Spring (1913) and Pulcinella and these works turned out to be big hits. While at Switzerland, the couple received their third baby Soulima (1910) who later became a composer. In 1913 their next child Marina Milena was born. Sadly, Katerina was diagnosed for Tuberculosis and she was taken to Swiss sanatorium in Leysin for confinement. Stravinsky travelled back to Russia to collect some research materials which were required for Les noces, a ballet composed by him. He returned back to Switzerland just before the World War I because the the bourders wre about to close due to the war. Being one among the few Russian Orthodox or Eastern orthodox community members settled in Switzerland, he is still remembered there. As Russia refrained from joining the Berne convention, Stravinsky faced some problem in collecting Royalties for his performances and works. This led him to serious financial crisis and to get out of this contingency, Stravinsky approached Swiss Philanthropist Warner Reinhart asking for financial assistance. This crisis affected Stravinsky’s relationship with Diaghilev as he blamed Diaghilev failed to go according to the contract. Stravinsky was writing Histoire du soldat (The soldier’s tale) and he conducted the first performance with Earnest Ansermet in 1918 at the Municipal de Lausanne. This entire event was sponsored by Reinhart and in return Stravinsky dedicated this work to Reinhart. This coalition went on up to 1919. In commemoration of all help, Stravinsky again dedicated another work “Three Pieces for Clarinat” to Reinhart. Reinhart, on the other hand, founded a music library at his home in dedication to Stravinsky.
Stravinsky In France
Stravinsky went to France in 1920 and formed a music based business relationship with Pleyel who was, by profession, a piano manufacturer. Pleyel helped Stravinsky in collecting royalties in return of which, Stravinsky was provided with a fixed monthly income and some studio space which Stravinsky used for his composing, gathering with friends and also for business conversances. Stravinsky composed many works and also re-composed some of hi early works for Pleyela, (player piano band owned by Pleyel). Jacques Larmanjath, who directed the musical department in Pleyela, made manuscrips of these compositions. Some of the major works which Stravinsky did for Pleyela include The Rite of Spring, Petrushka, Firebird, Les noces and Song of the Nightingale.
From Paris Stravinsky moved to southern part of France for a brief period and then return to Paris again in 1934 and then lived at rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. He accepted French citizenship in the same year. Soon after this, Stravinsky confronted the most grief-stricken period in his life. Stavensky and his eldest daughter Ludmilla was diagnosed for Tuberculosis. Ludmilla died in 1938 and his wife Katerina in 1939. Stravinsky got admitted to hospital for five months for the treatment of Tuberculosis. Added to his grief, his mother also died during this period. Stravinsky met a lady named Vera de Bosset in 1921, much before Katerine’s death and they came closer, getting into a strong relationship. Vera was married to another man that time and later, she left her husband and got married to Stravinsky. However, Stravinsky managed to spend time with his first family and also with Vera. He accepted French citizenship in 1934. Stravinsky then got an opportunity to work on a Symphony in C for an American band called Chicago Symphony Orchestra and this helped him develop some healthy professional relationship with some key people in United States. During the year 1939-1940, Stravinsky got an offer to lecture at Harvard University. He then moved to United States during World War II. Stravinsky took his love Vera also to United States and they got married in Bedford on 9th March, 1940.
Stravinsky In America
Stravinsky chose to settle in Los Angeles and he remained there for the rest of his life. In 1945, he became a US citizen. Thogh Stravinsky kept in touch with his Russian friends and other contacts even after reaching America; he couldn’t sustain it for long. During the World War II, he interacted with many musicians, composers settled in Los Angeles. Some of them are Otto Klemperer, Thomas Mann, Franz Werfel, George Balanchine and Arthur Rubinstein. Settled in Los Angeles, Stravinsky worked for famous brands like Los Angeles Philharmonic and other orchestras. He then met with W.H Auden and planned to write an opera. It was during this time that he met Robert Craft, a conductor and musicologist. They became close to each other and this friendship lasted long and Craft played different roles as interpreter, chronicle, assistant conductor etc. Stravinsky was part of the musical score for the “The Court Jester” in 1956. In 1962, Stravinsky went to Saint Petersburg (then known as Leningrad) to perform a series of concerts. He then went to Moscow and met many renowned musicians like Dmitri Shostakovich and Aram Khachaturian. In 1969 he shifted to New York where he lived rest of his life. He died in 1971 and was buried in San Michele Cemetery Island in Venice.
Stravinsky was so passionate to learn no matter what it is. Music, art, literature, life – he liked to learn about everything. He researched in Russian Folklore and classical literature and made use of this in his works. His researches were not confined to Russian Literature. He researched in English literature including medieval literature to satisfy his eager to learn more.
Though he had never outspoken about his faith, he maintained a deep respect for his religion. He was a bit alienated from the religious frame of life for some time, he returned back to faith in god after he met a Russian priest Rev. Father Nicholas. In the major part of his life he maintained proper Russian Orthodox Christian way of living.
Stravinsky And His Music
On analyzing Stravinsky’s compositions, you can clearly distinguish three different period of life. During the initial stages, he expressed a tendency to use large orchestra and his scoring pattern was markedly influenced by Rimsky-Korsakov. His works has exhibited development in the stylistic aspect. He has used a style influenced by Rimsky-Korsakov in “The Firebird” and also pandiatonicism in where he used diatonic scale without being limited by tonality. Later on, towards “The Rite of Spring” he adopted polytonality. If Fire Bird was made on imaginative Orchestration, The Rite of Spring he attempted to depict the brutality of a Pagan musically.
Next period in Stravinsky stuck to neoclassic style. His work Mavra is believed to be the first work based in this style. His last neoclassical work was an Opera “The Rake’s Progress”, written in 1951. He then moved to Serialism. He used serial techniques like Dodecaphony during this time. This is well demonstrated in his works like Cantata, Septet etc. He had experimented many styles in composing techniques, rhythm and harmony which made him worth addressing "one of music's truly epochal innovators". Stravinsky’s compositions exhibit motivic development in which the musical figures are repeated in different guises throughout the entire composition or a section of composition. Stravinsky has experimented with different rhythms as well. Famous musician Andrew J. Browne had commented on Stravinsky’s experiments with rhythms. He said "Stravinsky is perhaps the only composer who has raised rhythm in itself to the dignity of art."
Fireworks , 1908
Firebird ballet, 1910
The Rite of Spring, 1913
Oedipus rex, 1927
Symphony of Psalms, 1930
The Rake's Progress, 1951
Requiem Canticles, 1966
Stravinsky was awarded the Sonning Award, Denmark's highest musical honour, 1959
Stravinsky was posthumously honored with Grammy Awardfor Lifetime Achievement in 1987.
Stravinsky was inducted into the National Museum of Dance C.V. Whitney Hall of Fame, 2004
He was honored by the United States Postal Service with a 2¢ Great Americans series postage stamp, 1982
1882: Stravinsky was born in Oranienbaum, Russia
1901: Stravinsky was enrolled to study law the University of Saint Petersburg.
1905: Stravinsky started learning from Rimsky-Korsakove and this continued until 1908.
1906: Stravinsky got a half-course diploma in law. He married Katerina Nossenko, his cousin.
1907: Stravinsky received his first baby Fyodor.
1908: Stravinsky received his second child Ludmilla.
1909: Stravinsky performed his work Feu d'artifice (Fireworks) in Saint Petersburg.
1910: Stravinsky’s work “The Firebird” was premiered in Paris. He received his third baby Soulima.
1913: Stravinsky received next child Marina Milena
1918: Stravinsky conducted the first performance in Switzerland with Earnest Ansermet at the Municipal de Lausanne.
1920: Stravinsky re-located to France.
1921: Stravinsky met a lady named Vera de Bosset, who became his second wife.
1934: Stravinsky became a French Citizen.
1938: Stravinsky’s daughter Ludmilla died.
1939: Stravinsky lost his wife Katerina Nossenko.
1939: Stravinsky got an offer to lecture at Harvard University.
1940: Stravinsky married Vera de Bosset.
1945: Stravinsky became American Citizen.
1969: Stravinsky shifted to New York where he lived rest of his life.
1971: Stravinsky died at New York