Igor Stravinsky, considered by many to be one of the most
influential composers of the 20th century, was born on June 17, 1882
in Oranienbaum, Russia. He was raised, however, in Saint Petersburg where his
father, Fyodor Stravinsky was a bass singer at the Mariinsky Theatre. As a
child he took piano lessons and later studied music theory and composition.
Despite this enthusiasm for music, his parents wished their son to become a
lawyer and in 1901 he began his law studies. With the closure of the University
of Saint Petersburg in the spring of 1905, Stravinsky took the opportunity to
turn his focus solely upon music and began twice weekly private lessons in
composition with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
Stravinsky's career as a professional composer, as well as
his first stylistic period, is considered to begin with Feu d'artifice (Fireworks) in 1909. It was performed in Saint
Petersburg at a concert attended by Sergei Diaghilev, director of the Ballets
Russes in Paris. Impressed by the Stravinsky's unique orchestration, which was greatly influenced by his studies with Rimsky-Korsakov,
Diaghilev commissioned Stravinsky to write the ballet The Firebird. The ballet premiered in Paris in 1910 after which
Stravinsky and his family moved to Switzerland, where he lived until 1920. Over
the following years, he composed two more ballets for the Ballets Russe: Petrushka in 1911 and The Rite of Spring in 1913.
In 1920, Stravinsky moved to France where he formed an
advantageous relationship with the French piano manufacturer Pleyel. Acting as
his agent, Pleyel collected royalties for Stravinsky and also provided him with
a monthly income and a studio space in which to compose. He became a
naturalized French citizen in 1934. During this time, Stravinsky entered his
second stylistic period. Eschewing the large orchestral forces of the late
Romantic and his earlier works, he turned to the chamber works of Neo-Classicism.
The longest of his stylistic periods, the work during this time reflected the
influence of the music of Mozart, Bach and their contemporaries.
With the outbreak of World War II in September 1939,
Stravinsky left France and moved to the United States. He settled in the Los
Angeles area and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1945. In 1954, Stravinsky
once again made another radical stylistic change and adopted the twelve-tone
system of Arnold Schoenberg. In 1962, he
returned to his homeland, now the U.S.S.R., after a fifty-year absence at the
invitation of Nikita Khrushchev for a series of concerts in Leningrad. He moved
to New York in 1969 where two years later he died at the age of 88 on April 6,
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