Friday, June 17, 2016

Igor Stravinsky: "Shiny-New, Original, Inimitable"

Today is the birthday of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), popularly recognized as a leading founder of Modern music in the 20th century. Born in Russia, he lived in Switzerland and France before immigrating to the United States after World War II. He composed in a variety of styles over his lifetime but is best remembered for his dazzling, rhythmic music in the early years - 1910 to 1914 - of the Ballets Russes produced by Sergei Diaghilev in Paris. 

File:Igor Stravinsky LOC 32392u.jpg
Photoportrait of Igor Stravinsky, c. 1920s - 1930s

His work during that brief period included The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). One could say they are all signature pieces - experimental and revolutionary - that dazzled and in some cases infuriated their audiences. Regardless, they as well as other sounds  from Stravinsky's imagination have had a huge impact on music and arts. 

Here is Part 1 - all three available on YouTube - of a meticulous 1987 recreation by the Joffrey Ballet of The Rite of Spring.  There's probably no better representation around of what audiences experienced a century ago.

In the one hundred years since the premiere of The Rite of Spring  its innovative sounds have been re-patterned by the likes of Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein, John Williams and many others. The American classical composer who has perhaps carried rhythm as art to its farthest horizons is Philip Glass. Not everyone has an ear for Glass's work.  Then again, the most productive experiments often  make the biggest messes.


Photos and Illustrations:
George Grantham Bain Collection, United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington

Igor Stravinsky entry,
title quote, Leonard Bernstein, Homage to Stravinsky,

No comments: