Stravinsky, Igor Feodorovich
STRAVINSKY, IGOR FEODOROVICH
Russian composer; b. Oranienbaum, near St. Petersburg, Russia, June 17, 1882; d. New York, April 6, 1971. Although Igor's father, Feodor Stravinsky, was a bass in the St. Petersburg Imperial Opera, Igor was permitted to devote himself to music only after four desultory years as a law student. He worked under the tutelage of Nicolai Rimsky Korsakov from 1903 until the latter's death in 1908. Stravinsky's friendship and collaboration with the choreographer Sergei Diaghilev led to the three ballets that established the composer's reputation: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913).
He left Russia for good in 1914, and spent the period between the world wars in Switzerland and then France, a time corresponding to Stravinsky's so-called "neoclassical" period, during which he generally employed smaller performing forces (although this was in part due to economic necessity, especially during the World War I years) and compositional techniques that seemed conservative compared to the revolutionary Rite of Spring. He subsequently settled in Hollywood and became a U.S. citizen. With an output in excess of 100 works, he dominated the world of music for more than half a century. His own musical language never ceased to grow and develop; all centuries provided him with musical and literary source matter, which he assimilated into his own technique. His adoption of serialism in the 1950s was no conversion to doctrinaire academic avant-gardism, but the absorbtion of the technique within his own musical language.
Stravinsky wrote a number of sacred compositions, or pieces on religious subjects, several of which rank among his major works. His earliest sacred piece, the Pater Noster (1926) for unaccompanied chorus, is a simple setting in the style of Russian liturgical chant. It has been published with both the Latin and Old Slavonic texts. With it belong his Credo (1932) and Ave Maria (1934). Among his most popular works is the Symphony of Psalms (1930), a three-movement setting of Latin Psalm texts for chorus and orchestra. In addition, he wrote Mass (1948), Canticum Sacrum (1956), Threni (1958), A Sermon, A Narrative, and A Prayer (1962), Noah and the Flood (1962), Abraham and Isaac (1964), and Requiem Canticles (1966). Stravinsky, a lifelong Russian Orthodox, insisted that a composer of sacred music must himself be a believer. He had a special regard for the great composers of sacred music, from the Renaissance masters to Bach. Of his own works, only the Mass was written with the possibility of liturgical use in mind, but all are profound and significant contributions to the sacred repertory. Latin intrigued him; in addition to the sacred works, he used a Latin libretto in Oedipus Rex (1927), a translation by Jean Daniélou fron Jean Cocteau's original. He was decorated by Pope Paul VI in 1965.
In 1947 Stravinsky took on as his musical assistant the young American conductor Robert Craft. Craft also became his mentor's amanuensis; six volumes of dialogues between the two appeared, the major source for Stravinsky's thoughts and presumably in the composer's own words. The accuracy of some of these dialogues, especially the later ones, has occasionally been questioned, and Lillian Libman, Stravinsky's concert manager, has published an account of the composer's last years that differs on some points with Craft, while shedding some light on the latter's personality. Future research may clarify these matters, especially when Stravinsky's papers become available to scholars.
Bibliography: i. stravinsky, Stravinsky: An Autobiography (New York 1936); The Poetics of Music (Cambridge, Mass. 1948). i. stravinsky and r. craft, Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (Garden City, N.Y. 1959); Memories and Commentaries (Garden City, N.Y. 1960); Expositions and Developments (Garden City, N.Y. 1962); Dialogues and a Diary (Garden City, N.Y. 1963); Themes and Episodes (New York 1966); Retrospectives and Conclusions (New York 1969). r. craft, Stravinsky: Chronicle of a Friendship (New York 1972). l. libman, And Music at the Close: Stravinsky's Last Years (New York 1972). e. w. white, Stravinsky: The Composer and His Works (Berkely, Calif. 1966). r. vlad, Stravinsky (2d ed. New York 1967). b. boretz and e. t. cone, Perspectives on Stravinsky (New York 1972). e. h. buxbaum, "Stravinsky, Tempo, and Le Sacre," Journal of the Conductors' Guild 13 (1992) 32–39. j. knjazeva, "Jacques Samuel Handschin–Igor Stravinskij: Eine noch unbekannte Seite des Dialogs," Die Musikforschung 52 (1999) 207–211. a. sopart, "Der Einfluss des russischen Theaters um 1910 auf die dramaturgische Technik von Stravinskijs Renard, " Die Musikforschung 53 (2000) 60–68. p. truman, "An Aspect of Stravinsky's Russianism: Ritual," Revue Belge de Musicologie 46 (1992) 225–246.