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In continuing with our monthly theme of featuring some of the world's great composers, June will be the month that we explore the life and musical genius of Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky. Stravinsky is considered one of the most influential composers of the 20th Century and his work had a significant impact on musical thought and style before and after both world wars. With some of his works like The Rite of Spring, and his Symphony in C receiving world-wide attention, he’s gone down in history as one of the prolific composers of all time.
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky was born in 1882 in Oranienbaum, Russia to father, Fyodor, who was a talented bass singer, and mother, Anna who was an accomplished pianist. Though musical talent wasn’t lacking in his family, Igor’s parents hoped that he would pursue a career in law. While he went to the University of St. Petersburg to study law, he didn’t give up his passions for writing and composing music. He befriended fellow classmate Vladimir Rimsky-Korsakov, whose father, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was already a renowned composer. Upon realizing the extent of young Stravinsky’s musical talent, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov agreed to take him in as a private student.
Life in Russia and Europe
After getting married to Catherine Nossenko in 1906, with whom he fathered four children, Stravinsky was invited to orchestrate a few works by Chopin for the ballet, Les Sylphides in 1909. This led to the commission of The Firebird, a ballet that would end up giving Stravinsky far-reaching attention. In the following years, with the production of Petrouchka and The Rite of Spring, the composer had become a household name.
With the outbreak of war, Stravinsky moved to Switzerland with his family and continued writing. Although some of his best-known works are a product of this era, the Swiss Period was far from the end of the line for Igor Stravinsky.
In 1920, Stravinsky moved with his family to France where they would live for the next two decades. It’s in this region that we’d see works like his comic opera, Mavra, opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex, and many more. It was also during his time in France that Stravinsky experienced the death of his beloved wife and daughter from Tuberculosis.
Stravinsky in the United States
In 1939, Igor Stravinsky transitioned to the United States and eventually, got remarried to artist and designer, Vera de Bossett. It was in 1940, the same year as his marriage, that he finished one of his most well-known works, Symphony in C. Because of his talent and widespread success, Stravinsky gained new attention and acclaim in the U.S. He continued his writing and composing in the later years of his life with works like The Rake’s Progress in 1951, and Agon in 1957.
Following a decline in his health, Igor Stravinsky died in 1971, much to the dismay of the fans and adorers of his many musical works. Though this marked the end of his life, his legacy is one that will continue to live on for centuries to come.
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