Igor Stravinsky Born in 1882 in St. Petersburg, Russia
Igor’s parents Igor’s father was an opera singer and his mother was a singer and pianist. At age 9, she gave him piano lessons, but he spent more time improvising than reading the written notes.
Igor was a poor pupil with very few friends. Even though Igor showed musical talent, his parents made him go to law school to become a lawyer.
At law school, Igor became friends with a boy named Vladimir Rimsky-Korsakov. He was the youngest son of a famous composer named Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who’s famous for “Flight of the Bumblebee,” which you are listening to right now. Nicolai Rimsky- Korsakov
Once, when Igor was over at Vladimir’s house, Nicolai heard Igor play and told him that he would teach him how to compose. After that, Rimsky- Korsakov became a good friend and father figure to Igor. IgorNicolai
Stravinsky’s wife Katerina At the age of 23, Igor finished law school, but had no intention of pursuing a law career. He devoted himself to composing and a year later, married a kind friend who helped and supported him throughout his unhappy school days. This friend was his first cousin, Katerina. They had a happy marriage and 4 children.
Igor was very sad, but good fortune was around the corner. When “Fireworks” was performed in St. Petersburg, a man named Serge Diaghilev was in the audience. Stravinsky wrote a piece called “Fireworks” for the wedding of his teacher’s daughter. Upon finishing it, he sent it to Nicolai, but it was returned to him due to “death of the addressee.” died
Diaghilev was a very wealthy manager from France who had successfully brought Russian music and opera to Paris and now wanted a composer to write Russian ballets for his Paris audience and Igor was his man.
Stravinsky’s first ballet for Diaghilev was called “The Firebird”. It was a huge hit in Paris.
< A typical outfit for a ballet dancer for one of Stravinsky’s ballets
The second ballet was about an ugly puppet that comes to life (sound familiar?). This one was called “Petrushka”. It was well received, although there were some boos and hisses from the audience because it was very dissonant. Here is a short fragment of the ballet.
The first performance of Stravinsky’s third ballet, “The Rite of Spring”, became one of the greatest scandals in music history.
The ballet “Rite” or ceremony, is about a group of cannibal people who sacrifice a young girl, believing that it will make their gods happy and bring a good harvest.
Soon, fights broke out in the audience and there was mayhem everywhere. The police arrived, but couldn’t settle the riot. The ballet continued despite all of this, although it was hard for the dancers to hear the music. Some people who were used to the more traditional ballets started to boo and hiss. Other people who supported “new art” began yelling at them.
Stravinsky was very upset about all of the rioting and left in mid- scene, but Diaghilev loved it. In fact, some say he was hoping it would happen.(?)
The “Rite of Spring” would eventually be considered one of the greatest compositions of the 20 th Century. It was used for the dinosaur scene in the Disney film “Fantasia.”
At the outbreak of World War I, Stravinsky moved to Switzerland, then to Paris after the War.
Stravinsky’s 2nd wife, Vera He lived in Paris many years, but as World War II broke out and the demand for his music increased in the U.S.A., he moved to Hollywood in California and married his 2nd wife, Vera, after his 1st wife died.
Upon moving to the U.S.A., Stravinsky was asked to compose all kinds of pieces, including one more ballet. This one was a bit different though. The ballet dancers were 50 girls and 50 elephants! It was performed by the Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Stravinsky was known for being somewhat rebellious as a composer for breaking all the rules. Once, he was arrested in Boston in 1940 for re- harmonizing the United States national anthem. According to a federal law, changing the harmony is illegal.
The famous artist, Picasso, was also a fan of Stravinsky, and made several sketches of the composer. You will have to sketch this one yourself in 8 th grade…upside down. Overall, Stravinsky was considered one of the most educated composers and had a never-ending desire to learn more about life and art.
Igor Stravinsky eventually became an American citizen, and on his 80th birthday, received the State Department medal. He and his wife were invited to the White House to see President and his wife. (?)
From age 66 to 85, Igor and his wife traveled around the world. Igor loved to conduct his own music, and that’s just what he did until he couldn’t any longer.
Stravinsky was a small man with an awkward frame, but still a graceful, charismatic figure. He was very logical and an avid reader. His personal library had 10,000 books.
He often worked for 18 hours at a stretch and was plagued with ill health his whole life.
His mischievous sense of humor always had people in stitches.
Igor wore a battered, green beret to bed every night and once compared his music to his nose: “A nose is not manufactured, a nose just is. Thus, too, my art.”
Many fine recordings exist today because of Stravinsky’s dedication to his music.