“I am in the present. I can not know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve and I serve it in all lucidity.” –Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (June 17/5, 1882 – April 6, 1971) lived by this mantra. As a 20th Century composer, pianist, and conductor, music was his truth. Time magazine even named him as one of the 100 most influential people of the century. Music and its livelihood were the fiber of his life and he continued to serve his art through his own personal trials, triumphs, and tribulations until his own very end.
Talent surrounded Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky from the beginning but his enthusiasm and support did not. Born in Oranienbaum (later renamed Lomonosov in 1948) Russia and raised in Saint Petersburg, to an operatic bass singer, Fyodor Stravinsky. Igor was one of four children born to Fyodor and Anna Kholodovsky-Stravinsky. Igor had three brothers two were older than he Roman and Yuriy, and one younger Guriy. Roman died when Igor was fifteen years old. This was a huge tragedy for his whole family. Anna his mother loved to play the piano and sing too. Yuriy one of his elder brothers married Yelena Nikslyevna. Igor and Yuriy both struggled through their lifetimes with lung ailments including tuberculosis. Igor struggled with tuberculosis for 6 years of treatment. Guriy was the youngest brother and died in 1917 from typhus. One would believe that when the singer’s son showed an interest in music that his father would give him all his support and guidance but that was not the case. In fact, young Igor Stravinsky was quoted in his autobiography stating that his childhood was troubled: “I never came across anyone who had any real affection for me.” (Igor Stravinsky, “An Autobiography” (1936)
Despite the lack of support, Igor began to study music in the form of piano lessons. In 1890, along with meeting his cousin and future wife Katerina Nossenko, Stravinsky saw a performance of the Tchaikovisky ballet “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Mariinsky Theater. This was his first time seeing and hearing an orchestra and he fell in love with it. (www.answers.com)
Something about the orchestral experience spoke to him awakened his love for the art of music and how it was composed. He began to study intensely, searching for all the great works to learn from. At the young age of fourteen he has mastered Mendessohn’s “Piano Concert; in G Minor” and the next year he completed a piano reduction of a string quartet by Alexander Glazunov. (www.essentialsofmusic.com)
Amongst the abounding evidence of musical prodigy, Stravinsky’s family still pushed for him to obtain an education in law. He enrolled at the University of Saint Petersburg to become a lawyer in 1901. While attending he still studied music and by the time his father passed away in 1902 Igor had put his focus on musical studies. This caused his law studies to falter and affected his grades as well as the amount of credits he received. Although in the spring of 1905 the university closed due to the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, which prevented him from taking his law finals. This resulted in Stravinsky graduating with only a half-course diploma in April of 1906. That was the last time his studies were divided. From that point on music was his full focus. (www.wikipedia.org)
During his law studies he received musical training as well as guidance from one of the leading Russian Composers of the time Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Besides regular studies and private recitals in which Stravinsky plated some of his own compositions, Rimsky-Korsakov also influenced Stravinsky’s decision to continue with his instead of entering the Saint Petersburg Conservatoire. Rimsky-Korsakov became a father figure to Stravinsky, teaching him not only music lessons but life lessons as well. They were very close until lessons ended in year 1908 when Rimsky-Korsakov...
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