The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

April 6, 2016

April 6, 1971

Who can read about Igor Stravinsky (June 17, 1882 to April 6, 1971) and his composition, The Rites of Spring and not feel a thrill, even if the story is, for us, so old. Here is one encyclopaedic account:

In February 1909 a short but brilliant orchestral piece, the
Scherzo fantastique was performed in St. Petersburg at a concert attended by the impresario Serge Diaghilev, who was so impressed by Stravinsky’s promise as a composer that he quickly commissioned some orchestral arrangements for the summer season of his Ballets Russes in Paris. For the 1910 ballet season Diaghilev approached Stravinsky again, this time commissioning the musical score for a new full-length ballet....

The premiere of The Firebird at the Paris Opéra on June 25, 1910, was a dazzling success that made Stravinsky known overnight as one of the most gifted of the younger generation of composers. This work showed how fully he had assimilated the flamboyant Romanticism and orchestral palette of his master [Rimsky-Korsakov].... [Soon] Stravinsky ...conceived the idea of writing a kind of symphonic pagan ritual to be called Great Sacrifice. The result was The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps), the composition of which was spread over two years (1911–13). The first performance of The Rite of Spring at the Théâtre des Champs Élysées on May 29, 1913, provoked one of the more famous first-night riots in the history of musical theatre. Stirred by Nijinsky’s unusual and suggestive choreography and Stravinsky’s creative and daring music, the audience cheered, protested, and argued among themselves during the performance, creating such a clamour that the dancers could not hear the orchestra. This highly original composition, with its shifting and audacious rhythms and its unresolved dissonances, was an early modernist landmark. From this point on, Stravinsky was known as “the composer of The Rite of Spring” and the destructive modernist par excellence. But he himself was already moving away from such post-Romantic extravagances, and world events of the next few years only hastened that process.

Stravinsky and his wife and children spent the war in Switzerland. After 1917 he understood he could not return to his homeland, and that his property in Russia had disappeared. In 1934 he became a French citizen. Within two years at the end on the 1930s Stravinsky lost his oldest daughter, his wife and his mother.

Early in 1940 he married Vera de Bosset, whom he had known for many years. In autumn 1939 Stravinsky had visited the United States to deliver the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University (later published as the The Poetics of Music, 1942), and in 1940 he and his new wife settled permanently in Hollywood, California. They became U.S. citizens in 1945.

At the Britannica site we reference above there is an extended discussion of Stravinsky's place in modern music.

Henri Cartier-Bresson photographed Igor Stravinsky and his moggy in 1947.

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