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More about Igor Stravinsky
Widely considered to be one of the most important composers of the 20th Century, Igor Stravinsky’s work was notable for its eclecticism and creativity; in particular its innovations in harmony and rhythm.
Born in 1882 in Oranienbaum, Russia, to musical parents, Stravinsky was persuaded to study law at the University of Saint Petersburg instead of following his father into music. However, whilst there, Stravinsky became a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov's after his mother allowed him to pursue music following the death of his father. In 1909, Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes, asked Stravinsky to arrange some Chopin works for an upcoming ballet. Following this, Stravinsky was commissioned to write The Firebird, and thus began his rise to fame.
Stravinsky’s compositions stylistically fall into three periods. His Russian Period (1906-1918) was dominated by Russian folk music and his collaborations with the Ballets Russes, with the ballets The Firebird, Petrouchka, and the Rite of Spring proving even today to be enduring crowd-pleasers despite their chaotic premieres; a famous story of the Rite’s premiere includes a riot and an orchestra targeted by vegetables! His Neo-Classical Period began around 1919 when composers around the world were seeking order, clarity and restraint in their work in response to the chaos of WW1. During this time, Stravinsky moved his family to France and wrote some of most famous works, namely Pulcinella, Symphony of Psalms, and his Symphony in C. The Rake’s Progress, completed in 1951, marked the end of Stravinsky’s foray into neoclassicism, and he turned his attention instead to serialism. Inspired by Arnold Schoenberg, Stravinsky began writing using twelve-tone techniques, with his Canticum Sacrum (1956) featuring an entire movement based on a tone row.
In 1939, after the death of his wife and daughter, Stravinsky moved to the United States and began a second career as an educator and conductor, delivering lectures at Harvard University and touring the country giving performances of his work. After WW2, Stravinsky became a U.S. citizen and settled permanently in the country. After a decline in health during the early 1970’s, Stravinsky died in New York in 1971, leaving in his wake an enormous legacy that would continue to influence composers and artists alike throughout the rest of the century.
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