Well, this week I’ve been reading up on two of the most influential composers of the 20th century. The first, Igor Stravinsky.
Stravinsky was born in 1882, in Oranienbaum, Russia. Despite his early enthusiasm for music, his parents expected him to become a lawyer. He enrolled in the University of Saint Petersburg in 1901, but attended far to few classes to be sucsessful there. In 1902, Stravinsky stayed with the legendary russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsikov.
He took private lessons from Korsikov until 1908, when Nikolai died. In 1909, his first works impressed Sergei Diaghilev, who was a major russian theater owner. Diaghilev commissioned Stravinsky to write his first full length ballet, based on the russian legend of the battle between the evil King Kastchei and the noble Firebird. This was to become one of Stravinsky’s most well known pieces, and is generally considered to have brought in the modern musical period, along with his The Rite Of Spring.
Stravinsky was one of the few great composers whos virtuosity for scoring was realized during his lifetime. Patronage was never too far away. In 1939, Stravinsky moved to America, right after his mother and first wife, whome he had been married to for 33 years, died.
Stravinsky settled in Los Angeles in West Hollywood. He lived near Arnold Shoenberg, although surprisingly he did not have a close relationship with him. While in LA, he had an interesting experience with the police. After hearing one of his unconventional 7th chord renditions of The Star Spangeled Bannner, police told him that they would impose a $100 fine on any “rearrangement of the Anthem, whole or part.”
Today we look back and can truly see Stravinsky’s inexhaustible desire to learn about the tranistional language between life and art. This is shown by his wide taste in literature, operatic works, and collaboration with Picasso, among other visual artists. He is truly of the great artists of the 20th century.