Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) entered the music profession after commencing but never completing a law degree at St Petersburg University. He studied piano as a boy and later took composition lessons with esteemed composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov – a fact reflected in Stravinsky’s early works which demonstrate not only the influence of his teacher but also Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Debussy and Dukas. Stravinsky’s career breakthrough came with performances in Paris of a series of ballets for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring, 1913). All three works created a sensation. In fact, Le sacre du printemps, with its pounding rhythms, biting harmonies and unconventional choreography (the work of renowned dancer Vaslav Nijinsky), did more than create a sensation, it provoked a riot at its première. Stravinsky’s music is generally said to have entered a ‘neoclassical’ phase around 1920. Works of this period include the Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920), Symphony of Psalms (1930) and the opera The Rake’s Progress (1951). After the Russian Revolution of 1917 Stravinsky remained in the West and took out French citizenship in 1934 and American citizenship in 1945. In the 1940s he lived not far from composer Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles but the two men were not close. However, following Schoenberg’s death in 1951 Stravinsky became interested in Schoenberg’s 12-note technique and composed a number of partially 12-note works including the Canticum sacrum (1955) and the ballet Agon (1957). Stravinsky visited Australia in 1961 at the invitation of the ABC and conducted concerts of his music in Sydney and Melbourne. He died in New York at the age of 88 and is buried on the island of San Michele in Venice.
© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra