Igor Stravinsky

Concerto in Eb (Dumbarton Oaks)

            Stravinsky’s reputation as one of a handful of the most respected and influential composers of the twentieth century has been secure almost from the beginning of his career.  Yet, as he grew older, the bold changes in the nature and sources of his musical style stand as almost unique among his peers.   We may speak of Brahms’ or Tchaikovsky’s “style,” and although both certainly showed clear evidence of musical growth from youth to maturity, most folks have a rough idea of what any particular composition by either of them may sound like.  Sure, Beethoven went through his stylistic “periods,” but his artistry evolved from beginning to end more or less as a continuum of advancing growth and mastery in a coherent personal voice.  Not so, with our Stravinsky.   The fundamental c

Firebird Suite

          It would be difficult, indeed, to posit a composer whose artistic achievement and influence on the direction of music during the twentieth century exceeded that of Igor Stravinsky.  Moving through a series of explorations of different styles of composition, his works consistently exhibited a remarkable seriousness of purpose, solid musical integrity, and benchmark imagination.  What is more, his genius made its mark early—there are almost no compositions that we can label “journeyman” or “youthful apprentice works.”  Born into a musical, middleclass family, he studied law and music theory and composition (on the side) simultaneously.  By his mid-twenties he had begun to concentrate on music, rather than law, and had composed only a few works that were heard publicly.  But, tha

Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring)

           It’s somewhat fun to look back at the styles and fashions that shocked our ancestors, smugly reveling in our own sophistication and advanced thinking.    Yet, it must be said that almost a century on, the musical impact of Stravinsky’s epochal ballet, Le Sacre du printemps, still has the power, if not to shock, at least to affect audiences in powerful ways.  It is the third and final ballet from Stravinsky’s early musical maturity—the others being The Firebird (1910) and Petrushka (1911)—all three were commissioned by Sergey Diaghilev for his famous Ballets Russes.  The latter was the most influential dance company in the world, the cream of Russia’s dance community, and which was active for decades in Europe, most notably in Paris and Monte Carlo. 

Pulcinella

            Stravinsky’s reputation as one of a handful of the most respected and influential composers of the twentieth century has been secure almost from the beginning of his career.  Yet, as he grew older, the bold changes in the nature and sources of his musical style stand as almost unique among his peers.   We may speak of Brahms’ or Tchaikovsky’s “style,” and although both certainly showed clear evidence of musical growth from youth to maturity, most folks have a rough idea of what any particular composition by either of them may sound like.  Sure, Beethoven, went through his stylistic “periods,” but his artistry evolved from beginning to end more or less as a continuum of advancing growth and mastery in a coherent personal voice.  Not so, with our Stravinsky.   The fundamental