Craft, Robert 1923-

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CRAFT, Robert 1923-

PERSONAL: Born October 20, 1923, in Kingston, NY; son of Raymond and Arpha (Lawson) Craft. Education: Juilliard School of Music, B.A., 1946; also studied at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, MA, and studied conducting with Monteux.

ADDRESSES: Home—1390 South Ocean Blvd., Pompano Beach, FL 33062-7151.

CAREER: Conductor of orchestras in Europe, Japan, and the United States, beginning 1952. Conducted the New York Brass and Woodwind Ensemble, 1947; conductor of Evenings-on-the-Roof and Monday Evening Concerts, Los Angeles, CA, 1950-68. Lecturer at Dartington School, England, 1957, and at Princeton Seminar for Contemporary Music, 1959; Lucas Lecturer, Carleton College, 1981-82. Conducted twenty-five record albums for Columbia Records. Military service: U.S. Army, 1943-44.

AWARDS, HONORS: National Institute and American Academy award in literature, 1976; received two Grand Prix du Disque awards; Edison Prize, for recordings by Varese and Stravinsky.


(With Allesandro Piovesan and Ramon Vlad) Le Musiche religiose di Igor Stravinsky con il catalogo analitico completo di tutte le sue opere di Craft, Piovesan, Vlad, Lombroso (Venice, Italy), 1957.

Table Talk, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1965.

Bravo Stravinsky, photographs by Arnold Newman, World Publishing (Iowa Falls, IA), 1967.

Stravinsky: The Chronicle of a Friendship, 1948-1971, Knopf (New York, NY), 1972, revised and expanded edition published as Stravinsky: Chronicle of a Friendship, Vanderbilt University Press (Nashville, TN), 1994.

Prejudices in Disguise: Articles, Essays, Reviews, Random House (New York, NY), 1974.

Current Convictions: Views and Reviews, Random House (New York, NY), 1977.

(With Vera Stravinsky) Stravinsky: In Pictures and Documents, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1979.

(Translator) Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, Knopf (New York, NY), Volume 1, 1981, Volume 2, 1984, Volume 3, 1985.

(Author of captions) Igor and Vera Stravinsky: A Photograph Album, 1921 to 1971, photographs selected by Vera Stravinsky and Rita McCaffrey, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 1982.

A Stravinsky Scrapbook, 1940-1971, illustrations chosen by Patricia Schwark, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 1983.

Present Perspectives, Critical Writings, Knopf (New York, NY), 1984.

(Editor) Dearest Bubushkin: The Correspondence of Vera and Igor Stravinsky, 1921-1954, with excerpts from Vera Stravinsky's Diaries, 1922-1971, translated from the Russian by Lucia Davidova, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 1985.

Small Craft Advisories: Critical Articles, 1984-1988: Art, Ballet, Music, Literature, Film, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 1989.

Stravinsky: Glimpses of a Life, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1993.

A Moment of Existence: Music, Literature, and the Arts, 1990-1995, Vanderbilt University Press (Nashville, TN), 1996.

Places: A Travel Companion for Music and Art Lovers, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 2000.

An Improbable Life: Memoirs, Vanderbilt University Press (Nashville, TN), 2002.

Columnist, World magazine.


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky, four volumes, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1959, reprinted, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1980.

Memories and Commentaries, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1960, reprinted, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1981.

Expositions and Developments, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1962, reprinted, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1981.

Dialogues and a Diary, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1963, revised edition published as Dialogues, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1982.

Themes and Episodes (also see below), Knopf (New York, NY), 1966.

Retrospectives and Conclusions (also see below), Knopf (New York, NY), 1969.

Themes and Conclusions (contains excerpts from Themes and Episodes and Retrospectives and Conclusions), Faber (New York, NY), 1972.

SIDELIGHTS: For more than two decades, conductor Robert Craft enjoyed a rather unique position as resident house guest, collaborator, and confidant of composer Igor Stravinsky. Indeed, Craft is credited by many for having had a profound influence on Stravinsky's work. When the composer from the Ukraine came to America to live, it was Craft who helped to steer him away from the traditional schools of musical theory adhered to in Europe and toward a willingness to experiment; in fact, Craft persuaded Stravinsky to write music using the twelve-tone (dodecaphony) method that was so important in the composer's creative evolution. As Claudio Spies put it in a Notes review of Stravinsky: Glimpses of a Life, Craft had a definite role "in bringing about certain very crucial changes in Stravinsky's attitudes, in his musical concerns, and in his conscious efforts to adapt to American informality and relaxation." Publishers Weekly critic Sybil S. Steinberg described Craft as "Stravinsky's musical assistant, protégé and spiritual son." During his years with the composer, Craft recorded his impressions of life with him and his second wife, Vera Stravinsky, in a journal. Years later these impressions were the basis of several books written by Craft.

While Craft was the sole author of a number of these books, he wrote seven of his Stravinsky books in collaboration with Stravinsky himself; one was written with Stravinsky's widow, Vera. These books contain essays by and on the composer and his music, reviews, conversations with Stravinsky and other artists, and parts of Craft's journals. "Together, these collections of interviews, essays on music and reviews make up an extraordinary loose-leaf monument to the twentieth century's leading composer," explained a writer for Time. "Professionally speaking, Stravinsky has always been brilliant but baffling. A fierce and uncompromising pioneer who quite literally revolutionized the music of his century, he was also as modishly conscious of musical fashions as Picasso was addicted to changing taste in art and sculpture. Craft has made Stravinsky's one of the best-documented lives since Beethoven's, and his book [Retrospectives and Conclusions], music aside, presents some of the most lively and intelligent casual reading available." New York Times reviewer Anatole Broyard believed that "there are so many brilliant and moving things in Robert Craft's [Stravinsky: The Chronicle of a Friendship, 1948-1971] that one hardly knows where to begin in praising the book. In the last two decades of Stravinsky's life, Mr. Craft functioned as friend, sounding board, musical catalyst and stand-in conductor under Stravinsky's supervision. Having collaborated on six books with Stravinsky, Mr. Craft is a practiced writer: he is also an extremely good one."

Many critics pointed out that the truly inspired parts of these book collaborations were the sections written by Craft. Robert Evett explained in New Republic that "in their [Retrospectives and Conclusions] the authors have divided the book roughly in half: first, miscellaneous writings of Stravinsky, then a generous, but not-quite generous enough selection from the diaries of Robert Craft. The Stravinsky portion is entertaining but predictable....The really valuable material is in the Craft diaries....Itis clear from his writing that he enjoys the company of the great and famous, feels honored to drop their names, and does not mind being known as side-kick in residence to an eminent man." And Atlantic reviewer Oscar Handlin said that Craft's contributions to Themes and Episodes "derive their interest not only from the unusual people and places visited but also from the perceptive and lively style in which they are recorded.... These are the reflections of a powerful personality. The sentences are struck off like the thought they express, without premeditation and with intense feeling."

Reviewers have also found these admirable qualities in the Stravinsky books that Craft wrote by himself. In a New York Times Book Review article on Stravinsky: The Chronicle of a Friendship, Simon Karlinsky wrote that "Stravinsky is the main subject of Craft's diary, but . . . we are in the presence of Robert Craft's own mind and personality throughout, and what a fascinating mind it is: uncompromising in its insistence on musical excellence, philosophically subtle, attuned to every manifestation of contemporary sensibility, open to complex new ideas and new experiences. There is a deep humanity in Craft's sympathetic accounts." Karlinsky went on to remark, "If we add Craft's awesome erudition on almost every conceivable subject and the enviable stylistic mastery of his writing, it becomes clear that he is the ideal chronicler of Stravinsky's life, times and ideas." Michael Steinberg made similar remarks in a New York Times Book Review article. "On music itself, though, Craft can be intensely interesting and stimulating," Steinberg observed, "and for two reasons especially: he has a way of writing about things as though his experience of them were very fresh . . . and brings to his writing a daunting wealth of book-learning and musical reference."

Craft's 1993 book about his composer friend, Stravinsky: Glimpses of a Life, differs from his earlier books on Stravinsky in that, as Spies explained, "rather than presenting a string of essays on relatively unrelated biographical, literary, critical, or autobiographical materials that had previously been published in a variety of journals, the current collection consists of revisions and amplifications of articles now presented together for the first time." The central theme that ties the essays together, as Spies saw it, has to do with Craft's influence on Stravinsky, which, now that Stravinsky has been dead for several decades, "has lost all traces of . . . self-serving implications. It is merely an accurate statement of fact." Now, it can clearly be seen that Craft, indeed, was the person who was primarily responsible for breaking down the wall of tradition that had hampered Stravinsky and showed him new possibilities simply by exposing the composer to music and composers previously unknown to him.

In 2002, Craft published An Improbable Life: Memoirs, in which he details much about his days with Stravinsky, as well as many other famous people he has met over the years as a result of his association with the composer. In a review of the memoir in Opera News, Robert Croan acknowledged Craft's "considerable accomplishments as a conductor, and his extraordinary verbal and musical facility," but the critic felt that the "most interesting portions of An Improbable Life are those dealing with Stravinsky and the celebrities Craft met through him," while the sections about the author's own life struck Croan as "flat and even tedious." Having grown up middle-class in New York City, Craft led a fairly ordinary life until he met Stravinsky, and the sections of the book not related to this friendship reflect this ordinariness in their "prosaic" style, according to Croan, who added that, "In all, we don't really get to know Craft as well as we should from such a personal memoir." Nevertheless, Craft's contributions to the music world through his relationship with Igor Stravinsky have earned him an important place in its history.



Atlantic, October, 1966.

Booklist, October 1, 2002, George Cohen, review of Memories and Commentaries, p. 295.

Chicago Tribune, January 28, 1979.

Economist, June 6, 1992, review of Stravinsky: Glimpses of a Life, p. 97.

High Fidelity, November, 1982, David Hamilton, review of Igor Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, Volume 1, p. MA15.

Library Journal, August, 1982, Larry Lipkis, review of Igor and Vera Stravinsky: A Photograph Album, 1921 to 1971, p. 1464; February 15, 1986, Robert W. Richart, review of Dearest Bubushkin: The Correspondence of Vera and Igor Stravinsky, 1921-1954, with excerpts from Vera Stravinsky's Diaries, 1922-1971, p. 183; January, 1993, Timothy J. McGee, review of Stravinsky: Glimpses of a Life, p. 116.

Nation, June 15, 1970.

National Review, February 24, 1984, Terry Treachout, "Monologues in Disguise," p. 57; December 28, 1984, Terry Treachout, review of Present Perspectives: Critical Writings, p. 53; May 11, 1992, Ralph De Toledano, review of Igor Stravinsky, 1882-1927 (sound recording), p. 54.

New Republic, January 10, 1970.

New Statesman, October 15, 1982, Andrew Clements, review of Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, p. 30; September 21, 1984, Andrew Clements, review of Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, Volume 2, p. 33.

New Yorker, October 11, 1982, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, "Stravinsky," p. 174; July 30, 1984, review of Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, Volume 2, p. 87.

New York Times, June 15, 1972.

New York Times Book Review, July 2, 1972, October 16, 1977, January 28, 1979, May 23, 1982; December 5, 1982, "Stravinsky," p. 16; August 5, 1984, David Hamilton, review of A Stravinsky Scrapbook: 1940-1971 and Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, p. 11; January 13, 1985, Hubert Saal, review of Present Perspectives, p. 24; September 22, 1985, Leon Botstein, review of Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, Volume 3, p. 18.

Notes, June, 1994, Claudio Spies, review of Stravinsky, p. 1408.

Opera News, November, 1994, Patrick J. Smith, review of Stravinsky: The Rake's Progress (sound recording), p. 48; January, 2003, Robert Croan, review of Memories and Commentaries and An Improbable Life: Memoirs, p. 88.

Publishers Weekly, January 15, 1979; December 3, 1982, "A Book about Stravinsky," p. 53; December 9, 1983, review of Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, Volume 2, p. 42; January 13, 1984, review of A Stravinsky Scrapbook, 1940-1971, p. 58; February 3, 1984, review of Present Perspectives: Critical Writings, p. 392; July 5, 1985, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, Volume 3, p. 59; November 30, 1992, review of Stravinsky, p. 39; August 8, 1994, review of Stravinsky: Chronicle of a Friendship, p. 408.

Smithsonian, October, 1984, Alan Rich, review of Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, Volume 2, p. 187.

Time, December 19, 1969.

Times Literary Supplement, February 27, 1980; January 31, 2003, David Schiff, "Probably Bob," p. 7.

Washington Post Book World, December 31, 1967, May 23, 1982.


Robert Craft Web Site, (October 6, 2003).*