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Biography
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was a Russian-born composer, pianist and conductor whose bold trail blazing compositions embody many of the most innovative developments in 20th century music.

His father was a successful operatic bass in St. Petersburg, and it was at an early age that he exposed young Stravinsky to the music world, specifically the sound of the orchestra. Igor soon became a proficient pianist, improvising on the instrument as he progressed.

Adhering to family desire, Igor attended law school, all the while retaining his passion for music. During his studies in law, he developed an increasingly close relationship with the family of composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who soon recognized Igor's talents. He became Stravinsky's mentor, and their frequent gatherings at Rimsky-Korsakov's home quickly turned into formalized lessons in orchestration, technique and composition.

After some of his early works were premiered in Russia, his Paris years with Diaghilev's Ballet Russe saw the premiere of his first masterpiece "Firebird", which established his international reputation. His next ballet "Petrouchka" became greatly influential for its innovative orchestration and its polytonal, rhythmic and melodic techniques. He developed and exploited these elements in the ballet "The Rite of Spring" to such an extent that the ultra-modern music caused an audience riot at its premiere. Driving rhythmic forces, asymmetrical time signatures, angular intervals, and dissonant chords were new-found themes shining through his dense orchestral scores, and with “The Rite of Spring” he pushed the boundaries of musical design and transformed himself into a revolutionary. With the help of his own abandonment of traditional technique, stylistic discourse was now being fed into the mainstream.

Later works, including the ballet "Pulcinella", mark a departure from the lush romantic orchestrations of his early years and indicate a turn toward neo-classicism. The end of this phase saw the presentation of his opera, “The Rake's Progress”, which borrowed classic tonal harmony, yet still saw the exploration of off-rhythms and surprising dissonances. The 1950's began the adoption of serialism in Stravinsky's music, blurring form and melody far beyond natural recognition.

Stravinsky spent his last years in America, where the extended compositional techniques exhibited in his works were a little better understood. Stravinsky wrote music in nearly every genre, bringing fresh harmonic and structural treatments to each musical endeavor.  He remains a towering figure among 20th century composers.


Additional Perspective...


Igor Stravinsky (Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky) had a few things in common with his fellow artist and contemporary, Pablo Picasso: originality, audacity, diversity in style, and philandering. Stravinsky was a Russian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher born on or about June 17, 1882 (Brahms was 49 years old.) His name and that of Sergei Diaghilev will forever be linked, for Stravinsky first gained notorious fame while writing ballet music for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes – The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and the Rite of Spring (1913.) Just as Picasso opened a door to modern art, breaking all major painting conventions, so did Stravinsky with music. He was raised in St Petersburg and was supposed to study law. He did not hear the sound of an orchestra until 1890. However, by age 14, he had made great progress in music theory and piano. Nonetheless, he entered the University of St Petersburg to undertake the study of law in 1901. He never became a lawyer. Beginning in 1905, he took private lessons – twice weekly – from Rimsky-Korsakov. Early the following year (January), he married his cousin. In 1910, he went to Paris and stayed for some time. From there, he moved to Switzerland and stayed until 1920, from whence he returned to France. He moved to the U.S. in 1939, just in time to miss the Second World War in Europe, after the death of his first wife that same year. He settled in West Hollywood with his new wife. In 1969, they moved to New York. Stravinsky died there on April 6, 1971. In the manner of Richard Strauss and Jean Sibelius before him, he composed very little in later life, and what he wrote never came near the greatness of his early masterpieces. Stravinsky could easily have made a living as a conductor, too, for he was highly skilled at it. YouTube has at least one video showing him conducting. He also recorded several works as a conductor.

This biography was most recently edited by...
steven - 17 Jun 2011
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sbarnebey - 2 Feb 2010
steven - 24 Sep 2009
violinhunter - 10 Jun 2009
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