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Igor Stravinsky - Essay Example

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Stravinsky was born in Oranienbaum (now Lomonosov), near St. Petersburg, Russia. Brought up in an apartment in St. Petersburg and dominated by his father and elder brother, Stravinsky's early childhood was a mix of experience…
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Igor Stravinsky
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Igor Stravinsky

Download file to see previous pages... Stravinsky left Russia for the first time in 1910, going to Paris to attend the premiere of his ballet L'oiseau de feu (The Firebird) (Craft 20). During his stay in the city, he composed three major works for the Ballets Russes-L'oiseau de feu, Petrushka (1911), and Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) (1913). Eventually Stravinsky's music was noticed by Serge Diaghilev, the director of the Ballets Russes in Paris. He commissioned Stravinsky to write a ballet for his theater; so in 1911, Stravinsky traveled to Paris. That ballet ended up being the famous L'Oiseau de Feu. However, because of World War I and the October Revolution in Russia he moved to Switzerland in 1914.

The first of Stravinsky's major stylistic periods (excluding some early minor works) was inaugurated by the three ballets he composed for Diaghilev. The ballets have several shared characteristics: they are scored for extremely large orchestras; they use Russian folk themes and motifs; and they bear the mark of Rimsky-Korsakov's imaginative scoring and instrumentation.

The first of the ballets, L'oiseau de feu, is notable for its unusual introduction (triplets in the low basses) and sweeping orchestration. Petrushka, too, is distinctively scored and the first of Stravinsky's ballets to draw on folk mythology. But it is the third ballet, The Rite of Spring that is generally considered the apotheosis of Stravinsky's "Russian Period" (Hill 45-46).
Other pieces from this period include: Renard (1916), Histoire du soldat (A Soldier's Tale) (1918), and Les Noces (The Wedding) (1923).The next phase of Stravinsky's compositional style, slightly overlapping the first, is marked by two works: Pulcinella 1920 and the Octet (1923) for wind instruments.
Both of these works feature what was to become a hallmark of this period; that is, Stravinsky's return, or "looking back", to the classical music of Mozart and Bach and their contemporaries. This "neo-classical" style involved the abandonment of the large orchestras demanded by the ballets. In these new works, written roughly between 1920 and 1950, Stravinsky turns largely to wind instruments, the piano, and choral and chamber works.
Some larger works from this period are the three symphonies: the Symphonie des Psaumes (Symphony of Psalms) (1930), Symphony in C (1940) and Symphony in Three Movements (1945). The pinnacle of this period is the opera The Rake's Progress completed in 1951. This opera, written to a libretto by Auden and based on the etchings of Hogarth, encapsulates everything that Stravinsky had perfected in the previous 20 years of his neo-classic period. The music is direct but quirky; it borrows from classic tonal harmony but also interjects surprising dissonances; it features Stravinsky's trademark off-rhythms; and it harkens back to the operas and themes of Monteverdi, Gluck and Mozart.
The Serialist, or Twelve Tone Period
Stravinsky first began to dabble in the twelve tone technique in smaller vocal works such as the Cantata (1952), Three Songs from Shakespeare (1953) and In Memoriam Dylan Thomas (1954), as if he were testing the system. He later began ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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