Igor Stravinsky


Igor Stravinsky Essay, Research Paper

Question 1 – Igor Fedorovich Stravinsky was one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. The son of a famous bass singer at the Imperial Opera, Stravinsky showed little inclination to pursue a musical career, but while pursuing law studies in 1902, Stravinsky met Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who advised him to study music instead. Stravinsky began studying with the famous Russian composer in 1903, and after Rimsky’s death in 1908, never had another teacher. Stravinsky s early works caught the imagination Sergei Diaghilev, impresario of the famed Ballets Russes, who invited him to compose a ballet. The result was The Firebird in 1910, which was followed by the even more successful Petrushka in 1911. With his ballet The Rite of Spring in 1913, with its representations of prehistoric pagan Russian rituals and sacrifice, Stravinsky’s music ignited the most famous riot in the history of music. With its eclectic rhythms, absence of melody, and savage energy, The Rite of Spring marks the true beginnings of 20th century music, and even today never fails to thrill or amaze listeners.

With the advent of World War I, the production of large ballets became financially unfeasible. Stravinsky applied his imagination and the energetic rhythms of The Rite of Spring to the choral work Les Noces (The Wedding), a piece scored for only four pianos, percussion, and voices. A further reduction of instrumental forces followed with the musical fable L’histoire du soldat (The Story of a Soldier), which requires only a narrator and seven instrumentalists, after the model of the Dixieland Jazz combo. The story concerns a soldier returning from war, a violin, and the devil, where the devil is triumphant.

In 1920, Stravinsky settled in Paris, and entered a period of neo-classicism, in which he composed music modeled on the styles and forms of Mozart and Haydn. Some of the works composed in this style are the Octet for Winds, the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex, the ballets Pulchinella and Apollon Musag te, the Symphony of Psalms, and Stravinsky’s only full-scale opera, The Rake’s Progress . When World War II broke out, Stravinsky fled Europe and came to the United States, where he settled in Hollywood, California, where he eventually became an American citizen in 1940. In the 1950s, Stravinsky shocked the musical world by turning to serialism and produced the twelve-tone ballet Agon and the choral work Canticum Sacrum. By this time, Stravinsky had lived long enough to see himself internationally honored as the western world’s greatest living composer, and spent his last years conducting, recording his works, and granting interviews. He died in New York City in 1971, but his contributions to the world of music are still seen every day.

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