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Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (Russian: Игорь Фёдорович Стравинский, Igor' Fjodorovič Stravinskij) (June 17, 1882 – April 6, 1971) was a Russian composer, considered by many in both the West and his native land to be the most influential composer of 20th century music. He was a quintessentially cosmopolitan Russian who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the century. In addition to the recognition he received for his compositions, he also achieved fame as a pianist and a conductor, often at the premières of his works. Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev and performed by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (Russian Ballets): L'Oiseau de feu ("The Firebird") (1910), Petrushka (1911/1947), and Le sacre du printemps ("The Rite of Spring") (1913). The Rite, whose premiere provoked a riot, transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure; to this day its vision of pagan rituals, enacted in an imaginary ancient Russia continues to dazzle and overwhelm audiences. After this first Russian phase he turned to neoclassicism in the 1920s. The works from this period tended to make use of traditional musical forms (concerto grosso, fugue, symphony), frequently concealed a vein of intense emotion beneath a surface appearance of detachment or austerity, and often paid tribute to the music of earlier masters, for example J.S. Bach, Verdi, and Tchaikovsky. In the 1950s he adopted serial procedures, using the new techniques over the final twenty years of his life to write works that were briefer and of greater rhythmic, harmonic, and textural complexity than his earlier music. Their intricacy notwithstanding, these pieces share traits with all of Stravinsky's earlier output; rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few cells comprising only two or three notes, and clarity of form, instrumentation, and of utterance. He also published a number of books throughout his career, almost always with the aid of a collaborator, sometimes uncredited. In his 1936 autobiography, Chronicles of My Life, written with the help of Alexis Roland-Manuel, Stravinsky included his infamous statement that "music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all." With Roland-Manuel and Pierre Souvtchinsky he wrote his 1939–40 Harvard University Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, which were delivered in French and later collected under the title Poétique musicale in 1942 (translated in 1947 as Poetics of Music). Several interviews in which the composer spoke to Robert Craft were published as Conversations with Igor Stravinsky They collaborated on five further volumes over the following decade.
Stravinsky was born in Oranienbaum (renamed Lomonosov in 1948), Russia and brought up in Saint Petersburg. His childhood, he recalled in his autobiography, was troublesome: "I never came across anyone who had any real affection for me." His father, Fyodor Stravinsky, was a bass singer at the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg, and the young Stravinsky began piano lessons and later studied music theory and attempted some composition. In 1890, Stravinsky saw a performance of Tchaikovsky's ballet The Sleeping Beauty at the Mariinsky Theater; the performance, his first exposure to an orchestra, mesmerized him. At fourteen, he had mastered Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto in G minor, and the next year, he finished a piano reduction of one of Alexander Glazunov's string quartets. Despite his enthusiasm for music, his parents expected him to become a lawyer. Stravinsky enrolled to study law at the University of St. Petersburg in 1901, but was ill-suited for it, attending fewer than fifty class sessions in four years. After the death of his father in 1902, he had already begun spending more time on his musical studies. Because of the closure of the university in the spring of 1905, in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, Stravinsky was prevented from taking his law finals, and received only a half-course diploma, in April 1906. Thereafter, he concentrated on music. On the advice of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, probably the leading Russian composer of the time, he decided not to enter the St. Petersburg Conservatoire; instead, in 1905, he began to take twice-weekly private tutelage from Rimsky-Korsakov, who became like a second father to him. 1905 also saw his betrothal to his cousin Katerina Nossenko, whom he had known since early childhood. They were married on 23 January 1906, and their first two children, Fyodor and Ludmilla, were born in 1907 and 1908 respectively. In 1909, his Feu d'artifice (Fireworks), was performed in St Petersburg, where it was heard by Sergei Diaghilev, the director of the Ballets Russes in Paris. Diaghilev was sufficiently impressed to commission Stravinsky to carry out some orchestrations, and then to compose a full-length ballet score, L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird).
Stravinsky travelled to Paris in 1910 to attend the premiere of The Firebird. His family soon joined him, and decided to remain in the West for a time. He moved to Switzerland, where he lived until 1920 in Clarens and Lausanne. During this time he composed three further works for the Ballets Russes—Petrushka (1911), written in Lausanne, and Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) (1913) and Pulcinella, both written in Clarens. While the Stravinskys were in Switzerland, their second son, Soulima (who later became a minor composer), was born in 1910; and their second daughter, Maria Milena, was born in 1913. During this last pregnancy, Katerina was found to have tuberculosis, and she was placed in a Swiss sanatorium for her confinement. After a brief return to Russia in July 1914 to collect research materials for Les Noces, Stravinsky left his homeland and returned to Switzerland just before the outbreak of World War I brought about the closure of the borders. He was not to return to Russia for nearly fifty years. Stravinsky was one of the few Eastern Orthodox or Russian Orthodox community representatives living in Switzerland at that time and is still remembered as such in Switzerland to date.
He moved to France in 1920, where he formed a business and musical relationship with the French piano manufacturer Pleyel. Essentially, Pleyel acted as his agent in collecting mechanical royalties for his works, and in return provided him with a monthly income and a studio space in which to work and to entertain friends and business acquaintances. He also arranged, one might say re-composed, many of his early works for the Pleyela, Pleyel's brand of player piano, in a way that makes full use of the piano's 88 notes, without regard for the number or span of human fingers and hands. These were not recorded rolls, but were instead marked up from a combination of manuscript fragments and handwritten notes by the French musician, Jacques Larmanjat, who was the musical director of Pleyel's roll department. Stravinsky later claimed that his intention had been to give listeners a definitive version of the performances of his music, but since the rolls were not recordings, it is difficult to see how effective this intention could have been in practice. While many of these works are now part of the standard repertoire, at the time many orchestras found his music beyond their capabilities and unfathomable. Major compositions issued on Pleyela piano rolls include The Rite of Spring, Petrushka, Firebird, Les Noces and Song of the Nightingale. During the 1920s he also recorded Duo-Art rolls for the Aeolian Company in both London and New York, not all of which survive. After a short stay near Paris, he moved with his family to the south of France; he returned to Paris in 1934, to live at the rue Faubourg St.-Honoré. Stravinsky later remembered this as his last and unhappiest European address; his wife's tuberculosis infected his eldest daughter Ludmila, and Stravinsky himself. Ludmila died in 1938, Katerina in the following year. While Stravinsky was in hospital, where he was treated for five months, his mother also died. Stravinsky already had contacts in the United States; he was working on the Symphony in C for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and had agreed to lecture in Harvard during the academic year of 1939-40. When World War II broke out in September, he set out for the United States. Although his marriage to Katerina endured for 33 years, the true love of his life, and later his partner until his death, was his second wife Vera de Bosset (1888-1982). When Stravinsky met Vera in Paris in February 1921, she was married to the painter and stage designer Serge Sudeikin, but they soon began an affair which led to her leaving her husband. From then until Katerina's death from cancer in 1939, Stravinsky led a double life, spending some of his time with his first family and the rest with Vera. Katerina soon learned of the relationship and accepted it as inevitable and permanent. Around this time both left France for the USA, to escape World War II (Stravinsky in 1939 after Katerina's death, Vera following in 1940). Stravinsky and Vera were married in Bedford, MA, USA, on 9 March 1940.
At first Stravinsky took up residence in Hollywood, but he moved to New York in 1969. He continued to live in the United States until his death in 1971; he became a naturalized citizen in 1945. Stravinsky had adapted to life in France, but moving to America at the age of 58 was a very different prospect. For a time, he preserved a ring of emigré Russian friends and contacts, but eventually found that this did not sustain his intellectual and professional life. He was drawn to the growing cultural life of Los Angeles, especially during World War II, when so many writers, musicians, composers, and conductors settled in the area; these included Otto Klemperer, Thomas Mann, Franz Werfel, George Balanchine and Arthur Rubinstein. He lived fairly near to Arnold Schoenberg, though he did not have a close relationship with him. Bernard Holland notes that he was especially fond of British writers who often visited him in Beverly Hills, "like W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Dylan Thomas (who shared the composer's taste for hard spirits) and, especially, Aldous Huxley, with whom Stravinsky spoke in French." He settled into life in Los Angeles and sometimes conducted concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the famous Hollywood Bowl as well as throughout the U.S. When he planned to write an opera with W. H. Auden, the need to acquire more familiarity with the English-speaking world coincided with his meeting the conductor and musicologist Robert Craft. Craft lived with Stravinsky until the composer's death, acting as interpreter, chronicler, assistant conductor, and factotum for countless musical and social tasks. In 1962, Stravinsky accepted an invitation to return to St. Petersburg (Leningrad) for a series of concerts. He spent more than two hours speaking with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who urged him to return to the Soviet Union. Despite the invitation, Stravinsky remained settled in the West. In the last few years of his life, Stravinsky lived at Essex House in New York City. He died at the age of 88 in New York City and was buried in Venice on the cemetery island of San Michele. His grave is close to the tomb of his long-time collaborator Diaghilev. Stravinsky's professional life had encompassed most of the 20th century, including many of its modern classical music styles, and he influenced composers both during and after his lifetime. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6340 Hollywood Boulevard and posthumously received the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1987.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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