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Octet (Stravinsky)

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Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky

Subtitle: Pour instruments a vents

General Info

Year: 1923 / 1952
Duration: c. 14:50
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
Cost: Score and Parts - Rental   |   Full Score Only - $36.55   |   Study Score Only - $20.00


1. Sinfonia - 3:55
2. Tema con Variazioni - 7:40
3. Finale - 3:35


Full Score
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet (doubling Soprano Clarinet in A)
C Trumpet
A Trumpet
Tenor Trombone
Bass Trombone


See: Topolewski, in Resources, below.

Program Notes

Stravinsky’s Octuor for Wind Instruments (commonly known simply as the “Octet”) was written at a time in which the composer was beginning to experiment with more formal writing, a practice that would come to be known as Neo-Classicism. Stravinsky himself detested the term, calling it “a much abused expression meaning absolutely nothing.” The essence of neo-classicism is writing that is modern-sounding in its approach to harmony, rhythm, and counterpoint, yet is composed following the basic forms and ideals of the Classical period. Regardless of Stravinsky’s personal opinions on the semantics of the style, it was clear that he was employing a more formal and structured method in his compositions, and like it or not, he was a neo-classicist. Just a decade before he had burst onto the scene with his three nationalistic ballet scores, the last of which -- Rite of Spring -- had caused a near-riot at its premiere. Yet here Stravinsky was already abdicating the style that had brought him to fame, and was plunging into a new style, a style that never seemed to catch the public’s fancy in the way his lush Romantic scores had.

The score was begun at Biarritz, France, in late 1922, and was completed in Paris on 20 May 1923. The original version was published by Edition Russe de Musique in 1924; a later revised version (edited by Albert Spalding) is still published by Boosey & Hawkes. The manuscript resides in the Stiftung Rychenberg Winterthur. The premiere performance took place at the “Concerts Koussevitsky” in the Paris Opera House on 18 October 1923, with the composer conducting. Stravinsky decided to conduct the premiere performance partly due to the bad taste in his mouth from his experience with the premiere of Symphonies of Wind Instruments (in which he was unhappy with the way that Serge Koussevitzky interpreted the work), and partly because he did not want to risk another conductor “interpreting” a work for which – according to Stravinsky -- there was no interpretation.

Discussing the Octuor shortly after its first performance, Stravinsky said:

“Form, in my music, derives from counterpoint. I consider counterpoint as the only means though which the attention of the composer is concentrated on purely musical questions. Its elements also lend themselves perfectly to an architectural construction.”

- Program Note by Nikk Pilato

The composer wrote, "The octet began with a dream, in which I saw myself in a small room surrounded by a small group of instrumentalists playing some attractive music ... I awoke from this little concert in a state of great delight and anticipation, and the next morning began to compose.”

The premiere shocked many of the listeners who knew Stravinsky for his ballet commissions, and the work was not initially well received. Some audience members even thought that the work might have been a joke. But by 1924, with its performance at the Salzberg festival, the work was being hailed for its dynamic shift in aesthetic as the “Seventh Brandenburg Concerto.”

Aaron Copland, who attended the premiere, later wrote this of his experience with the work:

“I can attest to the general feeling of mystification that followed the initial hearing. Here was Stravinsky. . . now suddenly, without any seeming explanation, making an about-face and presenting a piece to the public that bore no conceivable resemblance to the individual style with which he had hitherto been identified ... No one could possibly have foreseen ... that the Octet was destined to influence composers all over the world.”

- Program Note by Michael Hoover

Reflecting Stravinsky's neo-classical era, his Octet for Wind Instruments exhibits strict formal structures and complex contrapunctal techniques. Stravinsky's music of this time may be considered a statement against Romanticism. The light-hearted closing is distinguished by its integration of jazz rhythms that obscure the bar line.

- Program Note from Great Music for Wind Band


State Ratings

  • Florida: VI


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln DMA Wind Band Conducting Chamber Ensemble (Trevor Frost, conductor) - 30 April 2023
  • Appalachia: A Southeastern Wind Symphony (Greenville, S.C.) (Logan Campbell, conductor) - 5 November 2022
  • Palisades Chamber Ensemble (Mt. Vernon, Iowa) (Joshua W. Neuenschwander, conductor) - 28 March 2022
  • New England Conservatory (Boston, Mass.) Chamber Winds (Sally Yu, conductor) - 14 and 28 April 2021
  • Iowa State University (Ames) Chamber Winds (Michael Golemo, conductor) - 24 March 2021
  • Miami (Ohio) University Wind Ensemble (Gary A. Speck, conductor) - 16 March 2021
  • The Hartt Wind Ensemble (West Hartford, Conn.) (Glen Adsit, conductor) - 19 November 2020
  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Mark Davis Scatterday, conductor) - 6 November 2020
  • United States Coast Guard Academy (New London, Conn.) Band (Jeffrey Spenner, conductor) - 1 November 2020
  • Baylor University (Waco, Texas) Wind Ensemble (Eric Wilson, conductor) - 22 October 2020
  • Ohio State University (Columbus) Concert Band Chamber Ensemble (Brent Levine, conductor) - 12 October 2020
  • Southland Wind Ensemble (Ontario, Calif.) (George Osorio, conductor)- 14 March 2020
  • University of Texas-Austin Chamber Winds (Jerry Junkin, conductor) - 21 December 2019 (2019 Midwest Clinic)
  • Nazareth College (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Symphony (Jared Chase, conductor) – 20 October 2019
  • University of Oregon (Eugene) Wind Ensemble (David M. Jacobs, conductor) – 12 March 2019
  • University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) Wind Ensemble (Travis J. Cross, conductor) – 12 March 2019
  • Boston (Mass.) Conservatory Wind Ensemble (Vimbayi Kaziboni, conductor) – 22 February 2019
  • Temple University (Philadelphia, Penn.) Wind Symphony (Patricia Cornett, conductor) – 20 February 2019
  • Penn State University (State College) Recital Ensemble (Jacob Bender, conductor) - 27 January 2019
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing) Chamber Winds (Kevin Sedatole, conductor) – 20 November 2018
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Wind Ensemble (Scott Teeple, conductor) – 28 October 2018
  • San Francisco Symphony (Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor) 27, 28, 29 & 30 January 2010

Works for Winds by This Composer