June 18, 2012. Igor Stravinsky. We didn’t have time to talk about Stravinsky last week, but he’s too big a presence in classical music to leave him out completely, so we’ll do it this week instead. Stravinsky was born on June 17, 1882 in Oranienbaum, as small town just outside of Saint Petersburg, famous for one the imperial palaces located there. In the past, we’ve written about Stravinsky quite a bit, both about his peregrinations and the radical changes in his compositional style. There’s no doubt that Stravinsky was a musical giant. His compositions, from the early “Russian” ballets The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, to neoclassical composition, such as ballets Pulcinella and Apollon musagète, two symphonies, in C and in Three Movements, and the opera The Rake's Progress, to the latest forays in serialism – practically his complete oeuvre belongs in the pantheon of classical music of the 20th century. But what we thought we’d mention this time, especially in juxtaposition to Richard Strausswhom we wrote about last week, is the very trite but still somehow surprising fact that geniuses are not always necessarily good. And we don’t mean being “good” in everyday life, although Stravinsky was, apparently, even though entertaining, a rather unpleasant person to be around. We mean their beliefs and political views. It’s well known that Stravinsky was anti-Semitic. That’s not very surprising, considering his aristocratic background and the fact that the Russian aristocracy during the last years of the monarchy was to a large degree anti-Semitic, with wonderful exceptions, of course, such as the Nabokov family. What comes as a shock is Stravinsky’s infatuation with Mussolini. In an interview he gave to the music critic of Rome’s La Tribuna in 1930 he said: “I don't believe that anyone venerates Mussolini more than I… I have an overpowering urge to render homage to your Duce. He is the savior of Italy and – let us hope – Europe.” He also wrote to a German publisher in 1933, “I am surprised to have received no proposals from Germany for next season, since my negative attitude toward communism and Judaism – not to put it in stronger terms – is a matter of common knowledge.” It’s quite ironic that Nazi cultural censors declared Stravinsky a “Jewish modernist” and banned his work from Germany.
We probably could go on, but our site is about music, not politics. Here is a wonderful piano arrangement by Guido Agosti of an excerpt from the Firebird Suite. It’s performed by the pianist Daniil Trifonov.
Copyright 2008-2010 Classical Connect, LLC