Stravinsky, Igor Fedorovich


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Stravinsky, Igor Fedorovich

(ē`gər fyô`dərô'vyĭch strəvĭn`skē), 1882–1971, Russian-American composer. Considered by many the greatest and most versatile composer of the 20th cent., Stravinsky helped to revolutionize modern music.

Stravinsky's father, an actor and singer in St. Petersburg, had him educated for the law. Music was only an avocation for Stravinsky until his meeting in 1902 with Rimsky-Korsakov, with whom he studied formally from 1907 to 1908. Stravinsky's First Symphony in E Flat Major (1907) is pervaded by the influence of Rimsky-KorsakovRimsky-Korsakov, Nicolai Andreyevich
, 1844–1908, Russian composer; one of the group of nationalist composers called The Five. He prepared himself for a naval career, but after meeting Balakirev in 1861 he turned seriously to composing.
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's nationalistic style. The work of Stravinsky interested the ballet impressario Sergei DiaghilevDiaghilev, Sergei Pavlovich
, 1872–1929, Russian ballet impresario and art critic, grad. St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, 1892. In 1898 he founded an influential journal, Mir Iskusstva [The World of Art].
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, and Stravinsky's first strikingly original compositions—L'Oiseau de Feu (The Firebird, 1910) and Petrouchka (1911)—were written for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris.

In the ballet Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring, 1913) he departed radically from musical tradition by using irregular, primitive rhythms and harsh dissonances. The audience at the premiere of the ballet reacted with riotous disfavor. However, in the following year the work was performed by a symphony orchestra, and ever since it has been recognized as a landmark and masterpiece of modern music.

At the beginning of World War I, Stravinsky moved to Switzerland, where he composed several works based on Russian themes, including the ballet Les Noces (The Wedding, 1923). Influenced by 18th-century music, he embarked on an austere, neoclassical style in such works as the poetic dance-drama Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier's Tale, 1918), the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927; text by Jean CocteauCocteau, Jean
, 1889–1963, French writer, visual artist, and filmmaker. He experimented audaciously in almost every artistic medium, becoming a leader of the French avant-garde in the 1920s.
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 after Sophocles), and the choral composition Symphonie de psaumes (Symphony of Psalms, 1930).

In the 1930s, Stravinsky toured throughout Europe and the United States as a pianist and conductor of his own works. He became a French citizen in 1934, but five years later he moved to the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1945. Compositions of the 1940s include such diverse works as the Ebony Concerto (1946) for clarinet and swing band; the Third Symphony (1946) in three movements; the ballet Orpheus (1948); and a mass (1948) for voices and double wind quintet.

After composing the opera The Rake's Progress (1951; inspired by Hogarth's engravings, with libretto by W. H. AudenAuden, W. H.
(Wystan Hugh Auden) , 1907–73, Anglo-American poet, b. York, England, educated at Oxford. A versatile, vigorous, and technically skilled poet, Auden ranks among the major literary figures of the 20th cent.
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 and Chester Kallman), Stravinsky turned to experiments with serial techniques (see serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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). In Cantata (1952) the new technique was evident, and in the chamber piece Septet (1953) he made the full transition to serialism. He continued to compose in this exacting style in the abstract ballet Agon (1957) and in Threni (1958), a work for voices and orchestra. His creative originality was undiminished in his late works, which display remarkable freshness, meticulous craftsmanship, and an experimental quality.

Stravinsky's influence on 20th-century music is immeasurable. He revitalized the rhythms of European music and achieved entirely new sonorities and blends of orchestral colors. A series of lectures he delivered at Harvard were published as Poétique musicale (1942, tr. Poetics of Music, 1948).

Bibliography

See his autobiography Chronicles of My Life (1935, tr. 1936); his Memories and Commentaries (1960), Expositions and Developments (1962), and Dialogues and a Diary (1963), all three written with R. Craft. See also biographies by R. Siohan (1959, tr. 1966), A. Dobrin (1970), P. Horgan (1972), R. Craft (1972), L. Libman (1972), and S. Walsh (2 vol., 1999–2006); studies by J. Pasler (1986), P. van den Toorn (1987), S. Walsh (1988), and C. M. Joseph (2001 and 2002).

Stravinsky, Igor Fedorovich

 

Born June 5 (17), 1882, in Oranienbaum (now the city of Lomonosov); died Apr. 6, 1971, in New York; buried in Venice. Russian composer and conductor. Son of the singer F. I. Stravinsky.

At an early age Stravinsky became acquainted with Russian literature, painting, theater, and music. He began playing the piano at the age of nine, and at 18 he began his own study of the theory of composition while studying law at St. Petersburg University (1900–05). In 1902 he began musical studies with N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, whom he called his spiritual father. The Scherzo Fantastique and the fantasy Fireworks for orchestra (both 1908) were Stravinsky’s first works to attract attention. Stravinsky was greatly helped by S. P. Diaghilev, organizer of the Russian Seasons Abroad in Paris. It was for Diaghilev’s ballet that he composed The Firebird (1910), Petrouchka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre duprintemps; 1913), which gained the composer world fame. Beginning in 1910, Stravinsky lived alternately in Paris and Switzerland and at his wife’s estate in Russia. He settled in Switzerland in 1914 and in France in 1920. In 1939 he moved to the USA and became a US citizen in 1945. He conducted concert tours abroad, performing his own works and, occasionally, compositions by M. I. Glinka and P. I. Tchaikovsky. These tours became more frequent after World War II. In 1962, Stravinsky performed in composer’s concerts in the USSR.

At the beginning of his career, Stravinsky was influenced by Rimsky-Korsakov, M. P. Mussorgsky, and Tchaikovsky; he accorded Tchaikovsky’s music high regard even in his later years. C. Debussy exercised a short-lived but strong influence on Stravinsky. Stravinsky was especially interested in Russian folklore, which left its mark on the composer’s Russian period of composition. Next to The Rite of Spring, the central work of these early years was the choreographic cantata The Wedding (Les Noces; 1914–23), which the composer described as “choreographic Russian scenes with singing and music to folk texts from the collection of P. Kireevskii.” Stravinsky turned to folk texts, folk subjects, and the melodiousness of the folk tradition and from these developed an original creative idiom that was bright, explosive, and dynamic. This idiom contributed to a renewal of the Russian national intonational style. At the same time, the everyday music of the modern city also found expression in Stravinsky’s works. Elements of archaic and everyday music were interwoven in The Soldier’s Tale (Histoire du soldat, “a tale of a deserting soldier and the devil”; 1918), a ballet pantomime with narrator. Here, as in another ballet pantomime with singing, The Fox (Reynard; 1916), Stravinsky drew his subject from a Russian folktale. Stravinsky established a new kind of musical stage work, characteristic of present-day conventional theater, by combining various theatrical devices. For example, he incorporated singing into ballet and used oral recitation to elucidate musical performances.

Stravinsky’s shift toward neoclassicism was first evident in Pulcinella, a ballet with singing (based on music by G. B. Pergo-lesi; 1920). The transition was consolidated in his Octet for Wind Instruments and his Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments (both 1923). Stravinsky continued in this style until the early 1950’s. Russian themes gave way to those of classical mythology and biblical texts, and the composer concentrated less on vocal music and more on instrumental works. (For his vocal compositions Stravinsky had mainly used Latin and, sometimes, French texts.) This trend diminished the influence of the composer’s Russian origins, although Stravinsky contended: “I have spoken Russian all my life. I think in Russian and have a Russian style. Perhaps it is not immediately evident in my music, but it is ingrained in it, in its hidden nature” (Komsomol’skaia pravda, Sept. 27, 1962, p. 4).

The works Stravinsky composed in this period demonstrated his assimilation of devices and techniques of the European baroque, ancient contrapuntal techniques, and the melodies of Italian bel canto. The composer’s brilliant artistic individuality was able to combine a heterogeneity of styles. Nonetheless, in the late 1930’s, signs of crisis can be seen in Stravinsky’s works, and there was an uncertainty and vacillation in his intellectual striving. Stravinsky’s finest works composed between the 1920’s and the early 1950’s include the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927), the allegorical ballet The Fairy’s Kiss (Le Baiser de lafée, based on music by Tchaikovsky; 1928), Symphony of Psalms (1930), the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1931), the Concerto for Two Pianos (1935), two symphonies (1940, 1945), the ballet Orpheus (1947), and the opera The Rake’s Progress (1951).

In the late 1940’s and the 1950’s, Stravinsky’s creative technique underwent another change—a turn to the twelve-tone technique of A. Schönberg. However, Stravinsky used this compositional technique modulated by his own tonal thinking. His choice of themes became much narrower, and religious images and subject matter predominated. His Mass for Horns and Orchestra (1948) marked a turning point. His music became more severe and acerbic, often self-consciously complex. Vocal-instrumental works to Latin and English texts were predominant. Stravinsky’s most significant compositions included the cantata Canticum sacrum ad honorem Sancti Marci nominis (1956), the ballet Agon (1957), and Requiem Canticles (1966). Stravinsky’s last composition was an adaptation of two songs by H. Wolf for chamber orchestra (1967).

Stravinsky is also the author of literary works, mainly autobiographical. In them he treats certain questions of musical aesthetics in a highly controversial manner, offering subjective evaluations and interpretations. Chronicle of My Life was translated into Russian in 1963 and Dialogues and a Diary in 1971.

REFERENCES

Glebov, Igor’ [Asaf’ev, B. V.]. Kniga o Stravinskom. Leningrad, 1929.
Iarustovskii, B. M. I. Stravinskii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1969.
Druskin, M. S. I. Stravinskii: Lichnost’. Tvorchestvo. Vzgliady. Leningrad-Moscow, 1974.

M. S. DRUSKIN