Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky
Specialty Composer, pianist, conductor
Born Jun. 17, 1882
Died Apr. 6, 1971
Nationality Russian

Igor Stravinsky was a famous Russian, French, and American composer, conductor, and pianist. He is widely considered to be one amongst the most influential composers of 20th Century. Igor first achieved international fame by composing three ballets that were commissioned by impresario Diaghilev.

These ballets (The Firebird, Petrushka, and Rite of Spring) were performed in Paris by the Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes between 1910 and 1913. His Russian Phase was later followed in the 1920s by a period in which he turned to the neoclassical type of music.

Early Years

Igor Stravinsky was born on June 17, 1882, in Oranienbaum, and he was brought up in Saint Petersburg. His father was a bass singer named Fyodor Stravinsky and Anna was his mother. As a young boy, Igor started his piano lessons. He studied music theory and even attempted composition. In 1890, he saw a performance of The Sleeping Beauty at the Mariinsky Theatre. By the time he turned 15, he had already mastered Medelssonhn’s Piano Concerto in G minor.

Despite his love for music, Igor’s parents wanted him to study law. In 1901, he enrolled at the University of St. Petersburg. However, he only attended less that 50 sessions during his four years study.

A Blossoming Music Career

During the summer of 1902, he stayed with a composer called Nikolai Korsakov in the German city of Heidelberg. While Nikolai was said to be the leading composer of the time, he suggested Igor should not join St. Petersburg Conservertoire, but rather study composing by taking private lessons. Later that year, Igor’s father died of cancer. In 1905, the university was closed for two months in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday. He was prevented from taking his final exams and he received a half-course diploma in 1906.

After this, he concentrated on studying music and in 1905, he started attending private lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov. The lessons continued until Rimsky died in 1908.

Life in Switzerland

Igor Stravinsky became an instant success after the premiere of The Firebird in Paris in June of 1910. He travelled from Ukraine to Paris to attend the final rehearsals and premiere of The Firebird. Later on, his family joined him and they decided to remain in the West for a while since his wife was expecting their third child.

After spending some time in Brittany, the family moved to Switzerland. Over the next four years, the family lived in Russia during summer time and spent the winters Switzerland. During his time here, he composed two more works for the Ballets Russes – Petrushka in 1911 and Rite of Spring in 1913.

Igor StravinskyFor the rest of summer, Igor Stravinsky diverted his attention to completing his very first opera entitled The Nightmare.

Life in France

After the premiere of Pulcinella by Ballets Russes in Paris in 1920, Igor went back to Switzerland. Couturier Coco Chanel invited Igor and his family to stay with her at her mansion in 1934. Eventually, the Stravinskys became French citizens and moved to Paris. During his time in France, his notable works included a comic opera named Mavra in 1942, Oedipus Rex in 1927, and the White Apollo in 1928. During the 1930s, he composed other pieces, including Symphony of Psalms, Persephone, Violin Concerto, Game of Cards, Concerto for Chamber Orchestra and Concerto for 2 Pianos.

Later Years

In 1939, Igor’s first wife died. That same year, he moved to the U.S and remarried a painter named Vera de Bosset after one year of courtship. During this time, he also finished his most important symphonic work – Symphony in C – in 1940.

Two years after his arrival in the U.S., Igor Stravinsky was arrested while performing in Boston. He was arrested for rearranging the national anthem. Despite this setback, Igor went on to have a very prolific and successful career in the U.S. this expanded to even include Hollywood movie soundtracks.

Death and Legacy

After a long period of declining health, Igor Stravinsky died while at his Manhattan apartment. He died on April 6, 1971. During his lifetime, he wrote more than 100 compositions including symphonies, ballets, concertos and sonatas. He was buried at San Michele, next to the tomb of Diaghilev. In 1987, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was even awarded a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

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