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Igor Stravinsky

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Igor Stravinsky


Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (5 June 1882, Oranienbaum - 6 April 1971, New York) was a Russian composer. Stravinsky was the third of four children, all boys: Roman, Yuri, and Gury. His family life was rather unfortunate: the oldest brother (Roman) died in 1897, and his father died of throat cancer in 1902. Another brother (Gury) died of typhus in 1917, and his first wife (who was, incidentally, his first cousin) Catherine died of tuberculosis in 1939. His daughter Lyudmila had died four months earlier from the same disease.

When he was only nine years old he began taking piano lessons, but was far from a prodigy. Much like Tchaikovsky, he was urged by his parents to study law, and he did in fact enroll at St. Petersburg University. This early training would serve him well in later years when he became known as the most litigious of composers, and would help him in his many business dealings. When he was twenty years old he showed his budding work to a friend of his father’s — the composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Rimsky-Korsakov took Stravinsky on as his pupil, providing him with much guidance and a discipline Stravinsky had not had to this point. Under Rimsky-Korsakov’s tutelage, Stravinsky was exposed to the music of many different composers, and met many artists, writers, and musicians.

Around 1908, the ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev commissioned Stravinsky to write music for his Paris series of the Ballet Russes: The Firebird is the score that resulted from this commission, and Stravinsky’s name became famous. Following hot on the heels of The Firebird came Petrouchka and the scandalous Le Sacre du Printemps ("The Rite of Spring"). Stravinsky’s international fame was now assured, and he never lost the reputation for being one of the most brilliant composers of the twentieth century.

For almost 50 years, Stravinsky toured the world as a concert pianist and then as a conductor, partly for the money but also partly to assure performances of his own works. In 1945 he became an American citizen and settled in Hollywood, California, where he lived until 1969, when he moved to New York to be closer to the medical facilities he depended upon. Stravinsky died of pneumonia in New York on 6 April 1971.

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