Stravinsky (1882 - 1971)

Vital StatisticsStravinsky

Born: June 17, 1882, St. Petersburg, Russia
Died: April 6, 1971, New York, United States of America
Nationality: Russian
Genre: 20th Century


Igor Stravinsky was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor. He is widely considered to be one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century.

In the 1890s Stravinsky learnt music through his father, a star bass-baritone at the Imperial Opera of the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. In 1901 he began lessons in music theory and composition with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Then in the years 1910 to 1913 Stravinsky wrote three ballets for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). These works made Stravinsky famous and placed him at the head of the Parisian avant-garde.

His "Russian phase" was followed in the 1920s by a period in which he turned to neoclassical music. In Paris in 1920, Pulcinella, another ballet, premiered; it had costumes and sets designed by Pablo Picasso. Stravinsky conducted the premiere of his Octet for Winds, in which he radically reinterpreted the musical language and syntax of the 18th century.

From the 1920s and into the 1930s Stravinsky embarked on an active concert career as a pianist; he moved to Nice, France; and wrote many theatrical works, including the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927) and the ballets Apollo (1928) and The Fairy’s Kiss (1928). During the latter part of the 1930s Stravinsky developed professional relationships with key people in the United States. At the outbreak of World War Two Stravinsky eventually relocated to the United States. He was drawn to the growing cultural life of Los Angeles, where so many writers, musicians, composers and conductors were settled. He sometimes conducted concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In 1948 Stravinsky met the conductor Robert Craft, with whom he collaborated for the rest of his life. Disturbed by the negative reaction of the avant-garde to his opera The Rake’s Progress (1951), Stravinsky asked Craft to help him learn serial composition, the avant-garde language of the postwar period. Canticum Sacrum (1955) is his first piece to include music based on a 12-tone row.

In his later years, Stravinsky worked in his own brand of serialism as his output slowed. He moved to New York City for medical treatment in 1969 and died there two years later.

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