Born: June 17th, 1882
Died: April 6th, 1971
Country of origin: Russia
L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird)
Conductor: Valery Gergiev
May 18th, 2013 | Großes Festspielhaus - Salzburg - Austria
Concerto in E flat "Dumbarton Oaks"
Conductor: Conducting course pupils
May 18th, 2013 | City Hall - Vaasa - Finland
The first requirement for good art remains first and foremost good workmanship. On doit posséder l'objet [One must have a command of one’s professional material]. Only inaccuracy is suspect. (Igor Stravinsky)
Igor Stravinsky was born on 17 June 1882 in Oranienbaum (now Lomonossov) near St. Petersburg. He grew up in a musical family: his father, Fjodor Stravinsky, was one of the most outstanding opera singers in Tsarist Russia. Alongside a humanist education, Stravinsky received tuition in piano, harmony and composition and soon displayed significant talent for improvisation. He subsequently studied law until 1905, but continued his musical studies at the same time. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was his composition teacher from 1905 to 1908. With his composition Feu d’artifice (1908), Stravinsky made an impression on the Director of the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev, who engaged him to carry out orchestrations and later commissioned him to compose music for The Firebird in 1909. From 1910 to 1914, Stravinsky lived and composed alternately on his estate Ustilug (Volhynia in the Ukraine) and in Clarens (Switzerland). During this period, Le Sacre du Printemps (1913) was composed and unleashed a theatrical scandal at its first performance in Paris. It was principally the seemingly “barbaric” rhythms which were regarded as being shocking and revolutionary to an equal degree. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Stravinsky returned permanently to Switzerland where he remained up to the year 1920. He subsequently relocated to France where he maintained lively contact with the leading artists in Paris (Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Eric Satie, Pablo Picasso, André Gide and Jean Cocteau). He became a French citizen in 1934. As early as 1935/36, he published his memoirs ("Chroniques de ma vie“) and embarked on an active career as conductor and pianist. At the beginning of the Second World War, Stravinsky gave his much quoted series of lectures at the American Harvard University "Poétique musicale" (published in 1942) and thereby avoided the time of the French Occupation. He took up permanent residence in the USA in 1939 and acquired American citizenship six years later. He participated in the Donaueschingen Music Festival for the first time in 1957 where he conducted the concert performance of his ballet Agon. He developed an interest in serial music and its younger representatives Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Following his rehabilitation in the Post-Stalinist USSR, he was once again able to visit his native country. Igor Stravinsky died on 6 April 1971 in New York.
The Paris premiere of L’oiseau de feu on 25 June 1910 was a sensational success for the young and ambitious composer and Stravinsky advanced to become a composer of ballet music par excellence. He gained a worldwide reputation with works such as Pas de deux (1921), Jeu de cartes (1936), Scènes de Ballet (1938) and the subsequent concert suite arrangements of these compositions. Stravinsky’s music is characterised by its brief-structured melodies, often only consisting of a few notes, its typical asymmetrical rhythm and its close relationship with dance. The aesthetic impulse comprises a neo-classical sense of form and a decisive anti-romanticism in opposition to the “unending” melodies of Wagner. In contrast to the earlier ballets, the works composed up to 1920 in Switzerland display a completely different style. In the stage work L’histoire du soldat (1918), created in collaboration with the poet Charles Ferdinand Ramuz, Stravinsky reduces the musical mediums and forms to an aesthetic minimum, incorporating elements of jazz in certain passages. The works composed in America include Symphony in C (1940), Danses concertantes (1941-42), Scherzo à la Russe (1944) and Symphony in three Movements (1945). These orchestral works display Stravinsky at the pinnacle of his neo-classical creative phase. Historical models are transformed with the aid of fragmentation and alienation to produce highly innovative tonal concepts. Stravinsky also experimented with serial techniques in his works composed post-1950.
Stravinsky received numerous prizes: he was the first recipient of the Léonie-Sonning Music Prize in 1959 and was awarded the Wihuri-Sibelius Prize in 1963. The same year, his US-American exile homeland conferred him the honour of a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He received an honorary doctorate from the Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1967. In 1983, the “Strawinski Fountain” was inaugurated on the “Place Igor Strawinski” in close vicinity to the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The 16 sculptures of the fountain represent different works by the composer.