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Summary Article: Stravinsky, Igor Fyodorovich
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Russian composer, later of French (1934) and US (1945) nationality. He studied under Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and wrote the music for the Diaghilev ballets The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913), which were highly controversial at the time for their use of driving rhythms and bi-tonal harmonies. At the first performance of The Rite of Spring the audience's reaction caused a riot. His works also include symphonies, concertos (for violin and piano), chamber music, and operas; for example, The Rake's Progress (1951) and The Flood (1962).

Stravinsky was one of the most important composers of the 20th century, who arguably determined the course of music for the rest of the century more than any other composer. His versatile work ranges from his neoclassical ballet Pulcinella (1920) to the choral-orchestral Symphony of Psalms (1930). In such works as the Canticum Sacrum (1955) and the ballet Agon (1953–57), he made use of serial techniques; this was only after the death of Arnold Schoenberg in 1951, as during Schoenberg's lifetime Stravinsky was seen as the main opposition to this technique.

Stravinsky was born near St Petersburg, where his father, Fyodor Stravinsky, was the leading bass at the Imperial Opera. His creative output can be divided into three distinct phases, beginning with Russian nationalism and continuing through neoclassicism to twelve-note technique. In 1903 he met Rimsky-Korsakov at Heidelberg and played him his early compositions, but did not become his pupil until 1907. By this time he had finished a piano sonata, begun a symphony, and married his second cousin, Nadezhda Sulima, in 1906. In 1908 he had the symphony performed and wrote the orchestral piece Fireworks for the marriage of Nadia Rimsky-Korsakov and Maximilian Steinberg, and a Funeral Chant on Rimsky-Korsakov's death. The performance of the Fantastic Scherzo in 1909 attracted the attention of the impresario Sergei Diaghilev, who commissioned Stravinsky to write The Firebird for the Ballets Russes. It was produced in Paris in 1910, and Stravinsky began to be known in Western Europe. Petruskha followed in 1911 and The Rite of Spring in 1913; both were produced in Paris, where the latter provoked much protest and fanatical support. In spite of the wild public protest at its premiere, The Rite of Spring was soon successfully performed all over Europe, Russia, and the USA, establishing Stravinsky, with Schoenberg, as the leading avant-garde composer of his time.

In 1914 he settled on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, and in Paris the same year Diaghilev produced the fairy-tale opera-ballet The Nightingale. From 1914 Stravinsky became as well known in London as in Paris, and in 1925 made his first tour of the USA. In the inter-war years many of his works were written in the spirit of neoclassicism, beginning with the ballet Pulcinella in 1920, based on pieces written by Giovanni Pergolesi (he actually wrote all over Pergolesi's original score), and continuing with the concerto for piano with wind instruments in 1924. Oedipus Rex, an opera-oratorio after Sophocles, was premiered in 1927, followed by the classically-inspired ballet Apollon Musagète in 1928, the ballet The Fairy's Kiss (after Tchaikovsky), Capriccio (1929) for piano and orchestra, and the Symphony of Psalms, premiered in 1930 under Ernest Ansermet.

In 1937 Stravinsky's ballet Jeu de Cartes was produced by George Balanchine at the New York Metropolitan Opera. He settled in Hollywood in 1939, and the following year he conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in his symphony in C. The powerful Symphony in Three Movements was premiered by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1946 and in 1948 Balanchine staged the ballet Orpheus. A meeting with W H Auden led to the peak of Stravinsky's neoclassical music, the opera The Rake's Progress which was premiered at Venice in 1951 and inspired by a William Hogarth painting of the same name.

Stravinsky had meanwhile met the conductor Robert Craft and under his influence turned towards the serial music of the Second Viennese School. This marks the beginning of the composer's third great period. Interestingly, Stravinsky began fully to explore this kind of music only after its main composer, Arnold Schoenberg, had died. Although the two men lived only a short distance away from each other in Los Angeles, they never met, living in their own entirely separate musical and social circles. The ballet Agon (1953–57) and the religious vocal works Canticum Sacrum (1955) and Threni combine rigorous methods with Stravinsky's familiar creativity. He composed very little after this. His Requiem Canticles of 1966 was performed at his funeral in Venice, a city which he regarded as his spiritual home.

He published Chronicles of my Life (1936), and (with Robert Craft) Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (1959) and Memories and Commentaries (1960).

WorksStage ballets, including The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), The Rite of Spring (1913), The Soldier's Tale (dance scene, 1918); Pulcinella (ballet with song, 1920), Les Noces/The Wedding (Russian choreographic scenes; composed 1914–17 and 1921–23, first performance in 1923), Apollon Musagète (1928), Orpheus (1948), Agon (1953–57); opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927); melodrama Perséphone (1934); opera The Rake's Progress (1951); musical play The Flood (1962).

ChoralSymphony of Psalms (1930), Mass with double wind quintet (1944–48), Canticum Sacrum (1955), Requiem Canticles (1966).

OrchestralSymphonies of Wind Instruments (1920), Concerto for piano and wind (1924), Capriccio for piano and orchestra (1929), Violin concerto in D (1931), Concerto, Dumbarton Oaks (1938), Symphony in C (1940), Danses concertantes (1942), Symphony in Three movements (1945), Ebony concerto for clarinet and jazz band (1945), Concerto in D for strings (1946).

Chamber and instrumental three Pieces for String Quartet (1914), Octet (1923), Duo Concertant for violin and piano (1932), Septet (1952).


Stravinsky, Igor Fyodorovich

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