"I remember being handed a score composed by Mozart at the age of eleven. What could I say? I felt like de Kooning, who was asked to comment on a certain abstract painting, and answered in the negative. He was then told it was the work of a 'celebrated monkey'.
That's different. For a monkey, it's terrific."
The only name that fits this composer? 'Enfant Terrible of the 20th century'. Classical music of course then.
Stravinsky, was born in Oranienbaum, Russia (1882). Initially he was sent to Law school: his father
who was a famous Opera singer in St. Petersburg
understood that a carreer in music was 'less
chancy' than a carreer as a lawyer.
When Stravinsky meets Rimsky-Korsakov
(who at that moment was Russia's leading nationalist
composer) he decides to study musical composition: especially when his father dies later that
year. He studies up to 1908 with Rimsky-Korsakov. In 1910 he hears that the impressario Diaghilev
wants a ballet for his Ballets Russes
and that Antoni Liadov
is asked to compose the score
of The Firebird
. When Liadov fails to deliver the music, the impressario turns to Stravinsky
who has already started composing the score.
is a sensation in the 1910 Paris season, and brings Stravinsky at the forefront.
For the Ballet Russes, Stravinsky is asked to compose 'Petrushka
' (1911) and 'The rite of the Spring
and the Firebird
told 'musical stories', The Rite of the Spring
marks Stravinsky's radical change from Neo-Romantic music. The music literally driven by primitive
rhythms, repetition and free from metric restriction shocks at the first performance at the
Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, on May 29, 1913. The theatre-goers are deeply offended when it hears
and sees the ballet dancing on musical suggestions and pagan rites. Stravinsky left it to other composers
to use what he just had changed.
After completing The Nightingale
, a Chinese opera, he seeks refuge in Switzerland. The First
World War has begun and Stravinsky turns aside from creating large works and focusses on
chamber music and piano works. From 1914-1918 he creates The Wedding
, The Soldiers Tale
and several other songs. In 1920, after the war, again he is asked to compose music for a revived Ballet Russes.
Remarkably, Stravinsky again sets a statement (for which he will be adored by the upcoming Berlin modernistic
composers like Weill
) by avoiding to compose for string instruments, preferring the
clear articulation of wind, percussion, piano and even pianola. Several works mark this period:
his Symphonies for Wind Instruments, short opera Mavra
and The Octet for wind
Stravinsky returns to compose for full orchestra in 1928, Oedipus Rex
and even a piece for
strings only, Apollon. By that time, Stravinsky was living back in France and even had
rejoined the Orthodox Church
His works in the 1930s are merely composed for instruments only. In 1939 he decides to move
to America, together with Vera Sudeikina
, a friend he always loved.
where he is asked to write several film scores. He collaborates with
and W. H. Auden
(The Rake's Progress
). In the 50s, just when his
inspirations seems to be drying out, he completely turns to the twelve-tone techniques of
(which he earlier rejected). His music of his last 15 years (although mainly religious), is
without losing his own Stravinsky sound.
His enormous fame in old age led to two other large projects: a complete recording of all
his works and a series of Conversation, books of memoirs, with his friend Robert Craft
Stravinsky died April 6, 1971, and was buried in Venice
A list of key works (chronological)
1910 Ballet, The Firebird
1911 Ballet, Petrushka
1913 Ballet, The Rite of Spring
1917 Les Noces ('The Wedding'), for voices, percussion and four pianos
1918 The Soldier's Tale, for speaker, chamber ensemble, dancers
1920 Ballet, Pulcinella
1920 Symphonies of Wind Instruments
1923 Octet for Wind Instruments
1927 Opera-oratorio, Oedipus Rex
1928 Ballet, Apollon musagète
1930 Symphony of Psalms
1931 Violin Concerto
1938 Concerto 'Dumbarton Oaks'
1940 Symphony in C
1945 Ebony Concerto
1945 Symphony in Three Movements
1951 Opera, The Rake's Progress
1957 Ballet, Agon
1966 Requiem Canticles for voices and orchestra
Booklets from CDs
Grove's Concise Dictionary of Music