Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ComSE (/strəˈvɪnski/; Russian: Игорь Фёдорович Стравинский, IPA: [ˈiɡərʲ ˈfʲɵdərəvʲɪtɕ strɐˈvʲinskʲɪj]; 17 June [O.S. 5 June] 1882 – 6 April 1971) was a Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century.

Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Serge Diaghilev and first performed in Paris by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). The latter transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure and was largely responsible for Stravinsky's enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary who pushed the boundaries of musical design. His "Russian phase", which continued with works such as Renard, L'Histoire du soldat, and Les Noces, was followed in the 1920s by a period in which he turned to neoclassicism. The works from this period tended to make use of traditional musical forms (concerto grosso, fugue, and symphony) and drew from earlier styles, especially those of the 18th century. In the 1950s, Stravinsky adopted serial procedures. His compositions of this period shared traits with examples of his earlier output: rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few two- or three-note cells, and clarity of form and instrumentation.


Early life, 1882–1901

Stravinsky was born on 17 June 1882 in the town of Oranienbaum on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, 25 miles west of Saint Petersburg.[1][2] His father, Fyodor Ignatievich Stravinsky (1843–1902), was an established bass opera singer in the Kyiv Opera and the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg and his mother, Anna Kirillovna Stravinskaya (née Kholodovskaya; 1854–1939), a native of Kiev, was one of four daughters of a high-ranking official in the Kiev Ministry of Estates. Igor was the third of their four sons; his brothers were Roman, Yury, and Gury.[3] The Stravinsky family was of Polish and Russian heritage,[4] descended "from a long line of Polish grandees, senators and landowners".[5] It is traceable to the 17th and 18th centuries to the bearers of the Soulima and Strawinski coat of arms. The original family surname was Soulima-Stravinsky; the name "Stravinsky" originated from the word "Strava", one of the variants of the Streva River in Lithuania.[6][7]

house of Igor Stravinsky
Stravinsky's house in Ustilug, now a museum

On 10 August 1882, Stravinsky was baptised at Nikolsky Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.[3] Until 1914, he spent most of his summers in the town of Ustilug, now in Ukraine, where his father-in-law owned an estate.[8][9] Stravinsky's first school was The Second Saint Petersburg Gymnasium, where he stayed until his mid-teens. Then he moved to Gourevitch Gymnasium, a private school, where he studied history, mathematics, and six languages.[10] Stravinsky expressed his general distaste for schooling and recalled being a lonely pupil: "I never came across anyone who had any real attraction for me."[11]

Stravinsky took to music at an early age and began regular piano lessons at age nine, followed by tuition in music theory and composition.[12] At around eight years old, he attended a performance of Tchaikovsky's ballet The Sleeping Beauty at the Mariinsky Theatre, which began a lifelong interest in ballets and the composer himself. By age fifteen, Stravinsky had mastered Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 and finished a piano reduction of a string quartet by Alexander Glazunov, who reportedly considered Stravinsky unmusical and thought little of his skills.[13]

Pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and first compositions, 1901–1909

Stravinsky in 1903

Despite Stravinsky's enthusiasm and ability in music, his parents expected him to study law and, at first, he took to the subject. In 1901, he enrolled at the University of Saint Petersburg studying criminal law and legal philosophy, but attendance at lectures was optional and he estimated that he turned up to fewer than fifty in his four years of study.[14] In 1902 Stravinsky, at age 20, met Vladimir, a fellow pupil at the University of Saint Petersburg and the youngest son of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Rimsky-Korsakov at that time was arguably the leading Russian composer and he was a professor at Saint Petersburg Conservatory of music. Stravinsky wished to meet Vladimir's father about his musical aspirations. He stayed the summer of 1902 with Rimsky-Korsakov and his family in Heidelberg, Germany. Rimsky-Korsakov suggested to Stravinsky that he should not enter the Saint Petersburg Conservatory but continue private lessons in theory. [15]

By the time of his father's death from cancer in 1902, Stravinsky was spending more time studying music than law.[16] His decision to pursue music full time was helped when the university was closed for two months in 1905 in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, which prevented him from taking his final law exams. In April 1906, Stravinsky received a half-course diploma and concentrated on music thereafter.[5][17] In 1905, he started twice-weekly lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov and regarded him as a second father.[14] These lessons continued until Rimsky-Korsakov's death in 1908.[18] Stravinsky completed his first composition during this time, the Symphony in E-flat, catalogued as Opus 1. In the wake of Rimsky-Korsakov's death, Stravinsky composed Funeral Song, Op. 5 which was performed once and then considered lost until its discovery in 2015.[19]

In August 1905, Stravinsky became engaged to his first cousin, Katherine Gavrylivna Nosenko.[9] In spite of the Orthodox Church's opposition to marriage between first cousins, the couple married on 23 January 1906. They lived in the family's residence at 6 Kryukov Canal in Saint Petersburg before they moved into a new home in Ustilug, which Stravinsky designed and built, and which he later called his "heavenly place". He wrote many of his first compositions there.[20][21] It is now a museum with documents, letters, and photographs on display, and the annual Stravinsky Festival takes place in the nearby town of Lutsk.[22][citation needed][23] Stravinsky and Nosenko's first two children, Fyodor (Theodore) and Ludmila, were born in 1907 and 1908, respectively.[24]

Ballets for Diaghilev and international fame, 1909–1920

Sergei Diaghilev

By 1909, Stravinsky had composed two more pieces, Scherzo fantastique, Op. 3 and Feu d'artifice ("Fireworks"), Op. 4. In February of that year, both were performed in Saint Petersburg at a concert that marked a turning point in Stravinsky's career. In the audience was Sergei Diaghilev, a Russian impresario and owner of the Ballets Russes who was struck with Stravinsky's compositions. He wished to stage a mix of Russian opera and ballet for the 1910 season in Paris, among them a new ballet from fresh talent that was based on the Russian fairytale of the Firebird.[25] After Anatoly Lyadov was given the task of composing the score, he informed Diaghilev that he needed about one year to complete it.[26] Diaghilev then asked the 28-year-old Stravinsky, who had provided satisfactory orchestrations for him for the previous season at short notice and agreed to compose a full score.[25] At 50 minutes in length, The Firebird was revised by Stravinsky for concert performance in 1911, 1919, and 1945.

The Firebird premiered at the Opera de Paris on 25 June 1910 to widespread critical acclaim and Stravinsky became an overnight sensation.[27][28][29] As his wife was expecting their third child, the Stravinskys spent the summer in La Baule in western France. In September, they moved to Clarens, Switzerland where their second son, Sviatoslav (Soulima), was born.[30] The family would spend their summers in Russia and winters in Switzerland until 1914.[31] Diaghilev commissioned Stravinsky to score a second ballet for the 1911 Paris season. The result was Petrushka, based the Russian folk tale featuring the titular character, a puppet, who falls in love with another, a ballerina. Though it failed to capture the immediate reception that The Firebird had following its premiere at Théâtre du Châtelet in June 1911, the production continued Stravinsky's success.

It was Stravinsky's third ballet for Diaghilev, The Rite of Spring, that caused a sensation among critics, fellow composers, and concertgoers. Based on an original idea offered to Stravinsky by Nicholas Roerich, the production features a series of primitive rituals celebrating the advent of spring, after which a young girl is chosen as a sacrificial victim to the sun god Yarilo, and dances herself to death. Stravinsky's score contained many novel features for its time, including experiments in tonality, metre, rhythm, stress and dissonance. The radical nature of the music and choreography caused a near-riot at its premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on 29 May 1913.[32][33]

Shortly after the premiere, Stravinsky contracted typhoid from eating bad oysters and he was confined to a Paris nursing home. He left in July 1913 and returned to Ustilug.[34] For the rest of the summer he focused on his first opera, The Nightingale (Le Rossignol), based on the same-titled story by Hans Christian Andersen, which he had started in 1908.[35] On 15 January 1914, Stravinsky and Nosenko had their fourth child, Marie Milène (or Maria Milena). After her delivery, Nosenko was discovered to have tuberculosis and was confined to a sanatorium in Leysin in the Alps. Stravinsky took up residence nearby, where he completed The Nightingale.[36][37] The work premiered in Paris in May 1914, after the Moscow Free Theatre had commissioned the piece for 10,000 rubles but soon became bankrupt. Diaghilev agreed for the Ballets Russes to stage it.[38][39][40] The opera only lukewarm success with the public and the critics, apparently because its delicacy did not meet their expectations following the tumultuous Rite of Spring.[37] However, composers including Maurice Ravel, Béla Bartók, and Reynaldo Hahn found much to admire in the score's craftsmanship, even alleging to detect the influence of Arnold Schoenberg.[41]

Group of supporters and members of the Ballets Russes in 1911

In April 1914, Stravinsky and his family returned to Clarens.[38] Following the outbreak of World War I later that year, he was ineligible for military service due to health reasons.[31] Stravinsky managed a short visit to Ustilug to retrieve personal items just before national borders were closed.[42] In June 1915, he and his family moved from Clarens to Morges, a town six miles from Lausanne on the shore of Lake Geneva. The family lived there (at three different addresses), until 1920.[43] In December 1915, Stravinsky made his conducting debut at two concerts in aid of the Red Cross with The Firebird.[44] The war and subsequent Russian Revolution in 1917 made it impossible for Stravinsky to return to his homeland.[45]

Stravinsky began to struggle financially in the late 1910s as Russia (and its successor, the USSR) did not adhere to the Berne Convention, thus creating problems for Stravinsky to collect royalties for the performances of his pieces for the Ballets Russes.[46] He blamed Diaghilev for his financial troubles, accusing the impresario of failing to adhere to their contract.[16] While composing his theatrical piece L'Histoire du soldat (The Soldier's Tale), Stravinsky approached Swiss philanthropist Werner Reinhart for financial assistance, who agreed to sponsor him and largely underwrite its first performance which took place in Lausanne in September 1918.[47] In gratitude, Stravinsky dedicated the work to Reinhart and gave him the original manuscript.[48] Reinhart supported Stravinsky further when he funded a series of concerts of his chamber music in 1919.[49][50] In gratitude to his benefactor, Stravinsky also dedicated his Three Pieces for Clarinet to Reinhart, who was also an amateur clarinetist.[51]

Following the premiere of Pulcinella by the Ballets Russes in Paris on 15 May 1920, Stravinsky returned to Switzerland.[52]

Life in France, 1920–1939

Stravinsky as drawn by Picasso in 1920

In June 1920, Stravinsky and his family left Switzerland for France, first settling in Carantec, Brittany for the summer while they sought a permanent home in Paris.[53][54] They soon heard from couturière Coco Chanel, who invited the family to live in her Paris mansion until they had found their own residence. The Stravinskys accepted and arrived in September.[55] Chanel helped secure a guarantee for a revival production of The Rite of Spring by the Ballets Russes from December 1920 with an anonymous gift to Diaghilev that was claimed to be worth 300,000 francs.[56]

In 1920, Stravinsky signed a contract with the French piano manufacturing company Pleyel. As part of the deal, Stravinsky transcribed most of his compositions for their player piano, the Pleyela. The company helped collect Stravinsky's mechanical royalties for his works and provided him with a monthly income. In 1921, he was given studio space at their Paris headquarters where he worked and entertained friends and acquaintances.[57][58][59] The piano rolls were not recorded, but were instead marked up from a combination of manuscript fragments and handwritten notes by Jacques Larmanjat, musical director of Pleyel's roll department. During the 1920s, Stravinsky recorded Duo-Art piano rolls for the Aeolian Company in London and New York City, not all of which have survived.[60]

Stravinsky's second wife, Vera de Bosset

Stravinsky met Vera de Bosset in Paris in February 1921,[61] while she was married to the painter and stage designer Serge Sudeikin, and they began an affair that led to Vera leaving her husband.[62]

In May 1921, Stravinsky and his family moved to Anglet, a town close to the Spanish border.[63] Their stay was short-lived as by the autumn, they had settled to nearby Biarritz and Stravinsky completed his Trois mouvements de Petrouchka, a piano transcription of excerpts from Petrushka for Artur Rubinstein. Diaghilev then requested orchestrations for a revival production of Tchaikovsky's ballet The Sleeping Beauty.[64] From then until his wife's death in 1939, Stravinsky led a double life, dividing his time between his family in Anglet, and Vera in Paris and on tour.[65] Katya reportedly bore her husband's infidelity "with a mixture of magnanimity, bitterness, and compassion".[66]

In June 1923, Stravinsky's ballet Les noces (The Wedding) premiered in Paris and performed by the Ballets Russes.[67] In the following month, he started to receive money from an anonymous patron from the US who insisted to remain anonymous and only identified themselves as "Madame". They promised to send him $6,000 in the course of three years, and sent Stravinsky an initial cheque for $1,000. Despite some payments not being sent, Robert Craft believed that the patron was famed conductor Leopold Stokowski, whom Stravinsky had recently met, and theorised that the conductor wanted to win Stravinsky over to visit the US.[67][68]

In September 1924, Stravinsky bought a new home in Nice.[69] Here, the composer re-evaluated his religious beliefs and reconnected with his Christian faith with help from a Russian priest, Father Nicholas.[70] He also thought of his future, and used the experience of conducting the premiere of his Octet at one of Serge Koussevitzky's concerts the year before to build on his career as a conductor. Koussevitzky asked for Stravinsky to compose a new piece for one of his upcoming concerts; Stravinsky agreed to a piano concerto, to which Koussevitzky convinced him that he be the soloist at its premiere. Stravinsky agreed, and the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments was first performed in May 1924.[71] The piece was a success, and Stravinsky secured himself the rights to exclusively perform the work for the next five years.[72] Following a European tour through the latter half of 1924, Stravinsky completed his first US tour in early 1925 which spanned two months.[72]

In May 1927, Stravinsky's opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex premiered in Paris. The funding of its production was largely provided by Winnaretta Singer, Princesse Edmond de Polignac, who paid 12,000 francs for a private preview of the piece at her house. Stravinsky gave the money to Diaghilev to help finance the public performances. The premiere received a reaction,[clarification needed] which irked Stravinsky, who had started to become annoyed at the public's fixation towards his early ballets.[73] In the summer of 1927 Stravinsky received a commission from Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, his first from the US. A wealthy patroness of music, Coolidge requested a thirty-minute ballet score for a festival to be held at the Library of Congress, for a $1,000 fee. Stravinsky accepted and wrote Apollo, which premiered in 1928.[74]

From 1931 to 1933, the Stravinskys lived in Voreppe, near Grenoble, southeastern France.[75] The Stravinskys became French citizens in 1934 and moved to the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris.[76] Stravinsky later remembered this last European address as his unhappiest, as his wife's tuberculosis infected both himself and his eldest daughter Ludmila, who died in 1938. Katya, to whom he had been married for 33 years, died of tuberculosis three months later, in March 1939.[77] Stravinsky himself spent five months in hospital, during which time his mother died.[78]

During his later years in Paris, Stravinsky had developed professional relationships with key people in the United States: he was already working on his Symphony in C for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra[79] and he had agreed to deliver the prestigious Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University during the 1939–40 academic year.[80]

Life in the United States, 1939–1971


On 30 September 1939, Stravinsky arrived in New York City and travelled onward to Cambridge, Massachusetts to fulfil his engagement at Harvard. For the first two months in the US, he stayed at Gerry's Landing, the home of art historian Edward W. Forbes.[81][82][page needed] Vera arrived in New York City in January 1940, after which the couple married in Bedford, Massachusetts on 9 March.[83] They moved into a home in Beverly Hills, California before settling in Hollywood from 1941. The composer had decided that the warm Californian climate would benefit his health.[83]

Stravinsky had adapted to life in France, but moving to America at the age of 57 was a very different prospect. For a while, he maintained a circle of contacts and émigré friends from Russia, but he eventually found that this did not sustain his intellectual and professional life. He was drawn to the growing cultural life of Los Angeles, especially during World War II, when so many writers, musicians, composers and conductors settled in the area: these included Otto Klemperer, Thomas Mann, Franz Werfel, George Balanchine and Arthur Rubinstein. Bernard Holland claimed Stravinsky was especially fond of British writers, who visited him in Beverly Hills, "like W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Dylan Thomas. They shared the composer's taste for hard spirits – especially Aldous Huxley, with whom Stravinsky spoke in French."[84] Stravinsky and Huxley had a tradition of Saturday lunches for west coast avant-garde and luminaries.[85]

Stravinsky's unconventional dominant seventh chord in his arrangement of the "Star-Spangled Banner" led to an incident with the Boston police on 15 January 1944, and he was warned that the authorities could impose a $100 fine upon any "re-arrangement of the national anthem in whole or in part".[86] The police, as it turned out, were wrong. The law in question merely forbade using the national anthem "as dance music, as an exit march, or as a part of a medley of any kind",[87] but the incident soon established itself as a myth, in which Stravinsky was supposedly arrested, held in custody for several nights, and photographed for police records.[88]

Stravinsky's professional life encompassed most of the 20th century, including many of its modern classical music styles, and he influenced composers both during and after his lifetime. Included among his students in the 1940s was the American composer and music educator Robert Strassburg.[89][90] In 1959, he was awarded the Sonning Award, Denmark's highest musical honour. In the early 1960s his students included Robert Craft and Warren Zevon.[91]

On 28 December 1945, Stravinsky and his wife Vera became naturalized US citizens.[92] Their sponsor and witness was actor Edward G. Robinson.[93]


Stravinsky on the cover of Time in 1948

On the same day Stravinsky became an American citizen, he arranged for Boosey & Hawkes to publish rearrangements of several of his compositions and used his newly acquired American citizenship to secure a copyright on the material, thus allowing him to earn money from them.[94] The five-year contract was finalised and signed in January 1947 which included a guarantee of $10,000 per for the first two years, then $12,000 for the remaining three.[95]

In late 1945, Stravinsky received a commission from Europe, his first since Perséphone, in the form of a string piece for the 20th anniversary for Paul Sacher's Basle Chamber Orchestra. The Concerto in D premiered in 1947.[96] In January 1946, Stravinsky conducted the premiere of his Symphony in Three Movements at Carnegie Hall in New York City. It marked his first premiere in the US.[97] In 1947, Stravinsky was inspired to write his English-language opera The Rake's Progress by a visit to a Chicago exhibition of the same-titled series of paintings by the eighteenth-century British artist William Hogarth, which tells the story of a fashionable wastrel descending into ruin. American poet W. H. Auden and writer Chester Kallman worked on the libretto. The opera premiered in 1951 and marks the final work during Stravinsky's neoclassical period.[98]

Stravinsky befriended American conductor Robert Craft while composing The Rake's Progress. Craft later became Stravinsky's personal assistant and close friend, and encouraged him to compose serial music. This began Stravinsky's third and final distinct musical period, the serial (or twelve-tone) period, which lasted until his death.[99]

In January 1962, during his tour's stop in Washington, D.C., Stravinsky attended a dinner at the White House with President John F. Kennedy in honour of his eightieth birthday, where he received a special medal for "the recognition his music has achieved throughout the world".[100][101] In September 1962, Stravinsky returned to Russia for the first time since 1914, accepting an invitation from the Union of Soviet Composers to conduct six performances in Moscow and Leningrad. During the three-week visit he met with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and several leading Soviet composers, including Dmitri Shostakovich and Aram Khachaturian.[102][103] Stravinsky did not return to his Hollywood home until December 1962 in what was almost eight months of continual travelling.[104] Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Stravinsky completed his Elegy for J.F.K. in the following year. The two-minute work took the composer two days to write.[105]

By early 1964, the long periods of travel had started to affect Stravinsky's health. His case of polycythemia had worsened and his friends had noticed that his movements and speech had slowed.[105] In 1965, Stravinsky agreed to have David Oppenheim produce a documentary film about himself for the CBS network. It involved a film crew following the composer at home and on tour that year, and he was paid $10,000 for the production.[106] The documentary includes Stravinsky's visit to Les Tilleuls, the house in Clarens, Switzerland, where he wrote the majority of The Rite of Spring. The crew asked Soviet authorities for permission to film Stravinsky returning to his hometown of Ustilug, but the request was denied.[107] In 1966, Stravinsky completed his last major work, the Requiem Canticles.[108]

In February 1967, Stravinsky and Craft directed their own concert in Miami, Florida, the composer's first in that state. By this time, Stravinsky's typical performance fee had burgeoned to $10,000. However subsequently, upon doctor's orders, offers to perform that required him to fly were generally declined.[109] An exception to this was a concert at Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada in May 1967, where he conducted the relatively physically undemanding Pulcinella suite with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He had become increasingly frail and for the only time in his career, Stravinsky conducted while sitting down. It was his final performance as conductor in his lifetime.[110] While backstage at the venue, Stravinsky informed Craft that he believed he had suffered a stroke.[109] In August 1967, Stravinsky was hospitalised in Hollywood for bleeding stomach ulcers and thrombosis which required a blood transfusion. In his diary, Craft wrote that he spoon-fed the ailing composer and held his hand: "He says the warmth diminishes the pain."[111]

By 1968, Stravinsky had recovered enough to resume touring across the US with him in the audience while Craft took to the conductor's post for the majority of the concerts.[112] In May 1968, Stravinsky completed the piano arrangement of two songs by Austrian composer Hugo Wolf for a small orchestra.[112] In October Stravinsky, Vera, and Craft travelled to Zurich, Switzerland to sort out business matters with Stravinsky's family. While there, Stravinsky's son Theodore held the manuscript of The Rite of Spring while Stravinsky signed it before giving it to Vera.[113] The three considered relocating to Switzerland as they had become increasingly less fond of Hollywood, but they decided against it and returned to the US.[114]

Final years and death

Stravinsky's grave on San Michele Island

In October 1969, after close to three decades in California and being denied to travel overseas by his doctors due to ill health, Stravinsky and Vera secured a two-year lease for a luxury three bedroom apartment in Essex House in New York City. Craft moved in with them, effectively putting his career on hold to care for the ailing composer.[115] Among Stravinsky's final projects was orchestrating two preludes from The Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach, but it was never completed.[116] He was hospitalised in April 1970 following a bout of pneumonia, which he successfully recovered from. Two months later, he travelled to Évian-les-Bains by Lake Geneva where he reunited with his eldest son Theodore and niece Xenia.[117]

On 18 March 1971, Stravinsky was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital with pulmonary edema where he stayed for ten days. On 29 March, he moved into a newly furbished apartment at 920 Fifth Avenue, his first city apartment since living in Paris in 1939. After a period of well being, the edema returned on 4 April and Vera insisted that medical equipment should be installed in the apartment.[118] Stravinsky soon stopped eating and drinking and died at 5:20 a.m. on 6 April at the age of 88. The cause on his death certificate is heart failure. A funeral service was held three days later at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel.[116][119] As per his wishes, he was buried in the Russian corner of the cemetery island of San Michele in northern Italy, several yards from the tomb of Sergei Diaghilev.[120]

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 1987 he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He was posthumously inducted into the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame in 2004.


Stravinsky's output is typically divided into three general style periods: a Russian period, a neoclassical period, and a serial period.

Russian period (c. 1907–1919)

Aside from a very few surviving earlier works, Stravinsky's Russian period, sometimes called primitive period, began with compositions undertaken under the tutelage of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, with whom he studied from 1905 until Rimsky's death in 1908, including the orchestral works Symphony in E major (1907), Faun and Shepherdess (for mezzo-soprano and orchestra; 1907), Scherzo fantastique (1908), and Feu d'artifice (1908/9).[121] These works clearly reveal the influence of Rimsky-Korsakov, but as Richard Taruskin has shown, they also reveal Stravinsky's knowledge of music by Glazunov, Taneyev, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Dvořák, and Debussy, among others.[122]

Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov (seated together on the left) in 1908

In 1908, Stravinsky composed Funeral Song (Погребальная песня), Op. 5 to commemorate the death of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The piece premiered 17 January 1909 in the Grand Hall of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory but was then lost until September 2015, when it resurfaced in a back room of the city's Conservatoire.[123] It was played again for the first time in over a century on 2 December 2016. The rediscovery generated much enthusiasm and, as a result, over 25 performances are scheduled in 2017 and beyond.[124]

Performances in St. Petersburg of Scherzo fantastique and Feu d'artifice attracted the attention of Serge Diaghilev, who commissioned Stravinsky to orchestrate two piano works of Chopin for the ballet Les Sylphides to be presented in the 1909 debut "Saison Russe" of his new ballet company.[125]

The Firebird was first performed at the Paris Opéra on 25 June 1910 by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Like Stravinsky's earlier student works, The Firebird continued to look backward to Rimsky-Korsakov not only in its orchestration, but also in its overall structure, harmonic organization, and melodic content.[126]

According to Taruskin, Stravinsky's second ballet for the Ballet Russes, Petrushka, is where "Stravinsky at last became Stravinsky."[127]

The music itself makes significant use of a number of Russian folk tunes in addition to two waltzes by Viennese composer Joseph Lanner and a French music hall tune (La Jambe en bois or The Wooden Leg).[128]

In April 1915, Stravinsky received a commission from Winnaretta Singer (Princesse Edmond de Polignac) for a small-scale theatrical work to be performed in her Paris salon. The result was Renard (1916), which he called "A burlesque in song and dance".[129]

Stravinsky in the 1920s

Neoclassical period (c. 1920–1954)

Apollon musagète (1928), Perséphone (1933) and Orpheus (1947) exemplify not only Stravinsky's return to the music of the Classical period but also his exploration of themes from the ancient Classical world, such as Greek mythology. Important works in this period include the Octet (1923), the Concerto for Piano and Winds (1924), the Serenade in A (1925), and Symphony of Psalms (1930).

In 1951, he completed his last neoclassical work, the opera The Rake's Progress to a libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman based on the etchings of William Hogarth. It premiered in Venice that year and was produced around Europe the following year before being staged in the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1953.[130] It was staged by the Santa Fe Opera in a 1962 Stravinsky Festival in honor of the composer's 80th birthday and was revived by the Metropolitan Opera in 1997.[131]

Serial period (1954–1968)

In the 1950s, Stravinsky began using serial compositional techniques such as dodecaphony, the twelve-tone technique originally devised by Arnold Schoenberg.[132] He first experimented with non-twelve-tone serial techniques in small-scale vocal and chamber works such as the Cantata (1952), the Septet (1953) and Three Songs from Shakespeare (1953). The first of his compositions fully based on such techniques was In Memoriam Dylan Thomas (1954). Agon (1954–57) was the first of his works to include a twelve-tone series and Canticum Sacrum (1955) was the first piece to contain a movement entirely based on a tone row.[133] Stravinsky expanded his use of dodecaphony in works such as Threni (1958) and A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer (1961), which are based on biblical texts,[134] and The Flood (1962), which mixes brief biblical texts from the Book of Genesis with passages from the York and Chester Mystery Plays.[135]

Innovation and influence

Stravinsky has been called "one of music's truly epochal innovators".[136] The most important aspect of Stravinsky's work, aside from his technical innovations (including in rhythm and harmony), is the "changing face" of his compositional style while always "retaining a distinctive, essential identity".[136]

Stravinsky with Wilhelm Furtwängler, German conductor and composer.

Stravinsky's use of motivic development (the use of musical figures that are repeated in different guises throughout a composition or section of a composition) included additive motivic development. This is a technique in which notes are removed from or added to a motif without regard to the consequent changes in metre. A similar technique can be found as early as the 16th century, for example in the music of Cipriano de Rore, Orlandus Lassus, Carlo Gesualdo and Giovanni de Macque, music with which Stravinsky exhibited considerable familiarity.[137]

The Rite of Spring is notable for its relentless use of ostinati, for example in the eighth-note ostinato on strings accented by eight horns in the section "Augurs of Spring (Dances of the Young Girls)". The work also contains passages where several ostinati clash against one another. Stravinsky was noted for his distinctive use of rhythm, especially in the Rite of Spring (1913).[138] According to the composer Philip Glass, "the idea of pushing the rhythms across the bar lines [...] led the way [...]. The rhythmic structure of music became much more fluid and in a certain way spontaneous."[139] Glass mentions Stravinsky's "primitive, offbeat rhythmic drive".[140] According to Andrew J. Browne, "Stravinsky is perhaps the only composer who has raised rhythm in itself to the dignity of art."[141] Stravinsky's rhythm and vitality greatly influenced the composer Aaron Copland.[142]

Over the course of his career, Stravinsky called for a wide variety of orchestral, instrumental, and vocal forces, ranging from single instruments in such works as Three Pieces for Clarinet (1918) or Elegy for Solo Viola (1944) to the enormous orchestra of The Rite of Spring (1913), which Aaron Copland characterized as "the foremost orchestral achievement of the 20th century".[143]

Stravinsky’s creation of unique and idiosyncratic ensembles arising from the specific musical nature of individual works is a basic element of his style.[144]

Following the model of his teacher, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky’s student works such as the Symphony in E, Op. 1 (1907), Scherzo fantastique, Op. 3 (1908), and Fireworks (Feu d'artifice), Op. 4 (1908), call for large orchestral forces. The Symphony, for example, calls for 3 flutes (3rd doubles piccolo), 2 oboes, 3 clarinets in B, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in B, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, and strings.[145] The Scherzo fantastique calls for a slightly larger orchestra but completely omits trombones: this was Stravinsky’s response to Rimsky’s criticism of their overuse in the Symphony.[146]

The three ballets composed for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes call for particularly large orchestras:

A costume sketch by Léon Bakst for The Firebird