Born in Russia, exiled in Switzerland, later a French citizen, later still an American citizen, buried in Venice. The itinerant life of Igor Stravinsky echoes the turbulent age through which he lived. The journeys of this iconic modern composer trace the history of the twentieth century, leaving their indelible mark on the extraordinary music he produced.
Born June, Oranienbaum
(west of St Petersburg)
Sara Mohr-Pietsch introduces Stravinsky's journeys (01:47)
Stravinsky begins lessons with
(When Rimsky-Korsakov dies in 1908,
Stravinsky writes Chant Funèbre in his memory.)
Assumed lost for more than 100 years, parts for the Chant Funèbre were recently discovered in a dusty corner of the St Petersburg Music Conservatoire. Read the story here, as reported in The Observer.
Workers massacred at St Petersburg Winter Palace on Bloody Sunday
Igor Stravinsky with his wife Ekaterina Nossenko. © SPUTNIK / Alamy Stock Photo
Stravinsky marries (his cousin)
They have four children:
Fyodor (Fedik, Theodore) 1907
Lyudmila (Mika, Mikushka) 1908
Sviatoslav (Soulima) 1910
Milena (Milène) 1914
First success with the Ballets Russes
Legendary Russian arts impresario Sergei Diaghilev mounts the inaugural ‘saison russe’ of Russian operas and ballets at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, including Les Sylphides (first seen as Chopiniana in St Petersburg, 1907), with a Chopin nocturne and waltz newly orchestrated by Stravinsky.
Costume design by Leon Bakst (1866-1924) for The Firebird. © World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
‘The most exquisite marvel of equilibrium that we have ever imagined between sounds, movements and forms.’
Review of the première of The Firebird, Paris, 1910
Stravinsky arrives in Paris
Diaghilev brings Stravinsky to Paris for the première of the ballet The Firebird at the Opera Garnier, with groundbreaking choreography by Mikhail Fokine and music by Stravinsky. Stravinsky's life is forever changed.
Stravinsky: A Creative Spring: Russia and France, 1882-1934 Stephen Walsh
Jonathan Cross: Stravinsky's life in Paris (13:18)
Paris was the cultural capital of the world in the years between the wars. Stravinsky made sure that he and his music were at the heart of the cultural life of the City of Light.
THE RITE OF SPRING
The Rite of Spring
'The Great Sacrifice' (original working title for The Rite of Spring), preliminary paintings by Nicolas Roerich (1910). © Heritage Image Partnership Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
The story of the first performance of The Rite of Spring on 29 May 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées has become the stuff of legend. Long famous for the so-called riot that took place, no-one can really be sure precisely what happened that night...
ESA-PEKKA SALONEN ON THE RITE OF SPRING (07:32)
The New York Times, 1913. Wikimedia commons
There was clearly some sort of commotion (which was not exactly unusual in Paris theatres), but whether the police were called is a debatable point. Most likely is that Diaghilev engineered the occasion by handing out free tickets to young enthusiasts for the new, in opposition to the conservative aristocrats who usually attended such occasions.
Diaghilev’s verdict? ‘Exactly what I wanted!’
‘The Rite of Spring serves as a point of reference to all who seek to establish the birth certificate of what is still called “contemporary” music.’ Pierre Boulez
Outbreak of WW1
Stravinsky makes last ever visit to family summer home in Ustilug
He will not return to Russia for almost 50 years
Stravinsky and his family spent the years of WWI living on the banks of Lake Geneva, Switzerland, along with many other exiled Russians from the Ballets Russes, including Diaghilev.
End of WW1
Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Stravinsky and his family relocate from Switzerland to Carantec, Brittany. Stravinsky then meets Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel; he and his family move into her house in Garches, west of Paris. In 1921 the family move to Biarritz, in 1924 to Nice, and in 1931 to Voreppe. Stravinsky divides his time between home and the capital. His base there is provided by the Pleyel piano company, who give him a work studio. The family returns to Paris in 1934.
LES NOCES WITH PIERRE-LAURENT AIMARD AND TAMARA STEFANOVICH (05:34)
Delve into Stravinsky’s Les Noces with pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich. This striking piece features the rare sight of four pianos on stage, played alongside percussionists and singers to create a unique spectacle. In this short film Pierre-Laurent and Tamara explain why they think Les Noces is the most exciting composition for piano today, with other surprising insights along the way.
Stravinsky meets and begins affair with
Vera de Bosset Sudeykina
‘In order to create
there must be a dynamic force,
and what force is more potent than love?’
Mavra and Renard
Picasso, Joyce and Proust
dine together at Hôtel Majestic, Paris
The first-night party following the première at the Paris Opéra of Renard on 18 May 1922 was quite an event. Wealthy British writer Sydney Schiff and his wife hosted a dinner at the luxurious Hôtel Majestic (now known as The Peninsula Paris) on avenue Kléber. The five guests were the crème de la crème of inter-war cultural life, symbolising their importance in the world’s artistic capital. Huge egos, delicate temperaments and free-flowing wine resulted in an eventful evening.
Germany: Beer Hall Putsch
In Germany, the Nazi party attempt a coup d'état. It fails, but they turn their attention to gaining power legally. Hitler does not become Chancellor until 1933, but during this time Nazism continues to grow. Artists and musicians (among many others) begin to flee.
Stravinsky's first concert tour of the US
Stravinsky makes his first recordings
(Petrushka and The Firebird for Columbia records)
George Balanchine choreographs Apollon musagète
(his first new choreography of a Stravinsky work)
In 1924, a 20-year-old Russian-Georgian dancer and choreographer named Giorgi Balanchivadze auditioned for Diaghilev, who immediately recruited him for the Ballets Russes. He took the name George Balanchine. In 1925 Diaghilev invited him to remake Stravinsky’s symphonic poem The Song of the Nightingale, which had first been staged by Léonide Massine in 1920. This was the start of a partnership between composer and choreographer that would become one of the most enduring and successful artistic collaborations of the 20th century. Together they produced some of the most exciting and influential work ever made for the ballet stage, including Apollon musagète, Orpheus and Agon.
Igor Stravinsky - June 1927. © SPUTNIK / Alamy Stock Photo
JONATHAN CROSS: STRAVINSKY AND MYTH (04:10)
Stravinsky’s career is punctuated by the retelling of classical myths: Oedipus, Apollon musagète, Persephone, Orpheus, Agon. It was through these myths that Stravinsky found the means to come to terms with the deep sadness and losses of the years of war and revolution through which he lived.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to hear a Latin version of King Oedipus. This version is an opera-oratorio; based on the tragedy of Sophocles, but preserving only a certain monumental aspect of its various scenes. And so (wishing to spare your ears and your memories) I shall recall the story as we go along…’ (The Speaker, Oedipus rex)
PETER SELLARS ON OEDIPUS REX (05:51)
Oedipus tears out his own eyes, a terrifying and unforgettable moment. As director of the opera-oratorio Oedipus rex, Peter Sellars talks to us about the human heart of the story. In this short film Peter opens up his creative mind, and explains the pairing in this concert with the peaceful Symphony of Psalms
Wall Street Crash, start of Great Depression
Symphony of Psalms
Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany
Spanish Civil War begins
German aeroplanes flying over Paris during the Blitzkrieg, 1940. © The Art Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
Stravinsky’s daughter Lyudmila dies
Stravinsky’s wife and mother die
Outbreak of WW11
STRAVINSKY LEAVES EUROPE FOR THE UNITED STATES ABOARD THE SS MANHATTAN
Esa-Pekka Salonen: Journey to America (11:03)
With Europe at war again, Stravinsky set sail for America to deliver lectures
at Harvard University. He chose to stay, living in the same house in California
longer than anywhere else in his life.
Occupation of Paris by Nazis and surrender of Marshal Pétain
Vera joins Igor in the US
and they are married
They eventually settle in LOS ANGELES
Fantasia is released
Disney’s film Fantasia is released, containing a famous scene for animated dinosaurs suggested by the rearranged music of The Rite of Spring. Stravinsky signed away the world rights for his music to the Disney Corporation for (a measly) $6000.
Stravinsky is warned by police
after arranging The Star Spangled Banner
End of WW11
Igor and Vera Stravinsky
granted US citizenship
Philharmonia Orchestra founded (History)
Stravinsky festival held in Paris
Paris mounts a Stravinsky Festival (January to June) to help sweep away the memory of concerts of German music during the Nazi occupation. On 15 March 1945, a young Pierre Boulez and fellow Conservatoire composition students blow police whistles to disrupt the French première of Four Norwegian Moods at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in protest at – as it seemed to them – the music’s neoclassical conservatism.
Los Angeles in the evening light. © Philharmonia Orchestra 2016
Stravinsky meets Robert Craft
Craft lived in the Stravinsky household for over 20 years
Robert Craft – known affectionately to Igor and Vera Stravinsky as ‘Bobsky’ – was friend, spokesman, advisor, amanuensis, conductor and chronicler of all things Stravinskian. Together they wrote the series of late Conversations books.
‘From the first, she [Vera Stravinsky] believed that I, or someone like me, was essential to her husband if he was to remain in the midstream of new music.’ Robert Craft
‘I know the Symphony in C better than Mr. S. does.’
(Robert Craft, 7 April 1948, just a week after having met Stravinsky for the first time.)
Stravinsky returns to Europe
for the first time since 1939
The Rake's Progress premières in Venice
They plan an opera together,
but Thomas dies later that year
IN MEMORIAM DYLAN THOMAS
Stravinsky suffers a stroke
in Berlin while conducting Symphony in C
KAROLE ARMITAGE: AGON, DANCE AND COLLABORATION (09:12)
Agon was supposed to be a ballet to end all ballets – that’s what the choreographer George Balanchine wanted to complete his trio of myth-based ballet collaborations with Stravinsky: Apollon musagète, Orpheus, and now Agon. Choreographer Karole Armitage, who danced with Balanchine, is creating a new version of Agon, to première with the Philharmonia in May 2016. Go behind the scenes with her during the rehearsal process.
Igor and Vera Stravinsky with the USSR Minister of Culture Yekaterina Furtseva in Moscow. © ITAR-TASS Photo Agency / Alamy Stock Photo
ESA-PEKKA SALONEN: STRAVINSKY AND FAITH (06:41)
In Stravinsky’s later life he looked to religion for comfort and inspiration, both directly to his own Russian Orthodox faith, and more widely. Esa-Pekka Salonen reflects on Stravinsky’s religious works such as the Cantata and the Mass, as well as on his musical homages to lost friends.
Vietnam war begins
Stravinsky's most extensive world tour
He visits Europe, east Asia, Australia and New Zealand
Stravinsky returns to Russia
(now Soviet Union) for first time in nearly 50 years
A dinner is held in his honour by Soviet Ministry of Culture.
In this year Stravinsky also tours to South Africa, Europe and Israel.
The Stravinskys dine with the Kennedys at the White House
Cuban Missile Crisis. Mandela imprisoned.
Igor Stravinsky conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in a concert of his own music in Rio de Janeiro.
Craft conducts Fireworks and Symphony in Three Movements, before Stravinsky conducts the Suite Le Baiser de la Fée himself.
Civil Rights Act
passed in the US
Elegy for JFK
INTROITUS (TS ELIOT IN MEMORIAM)
Aged 83, Stravinsky conducts his farewell London concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
The concert took place on the 14th September at the Royal Festival Hall, with performances including the 1945 suite from The Firebird. Stravinsky was called back to the stage many times. Since the applause appeared to be never-ending, he finally returned to the stage in his coat and hat!
move to New York
(6 April) in his apartment in New York
Preliminary funeral rites take place in New York. The funeral is in Venice at the church of Santi Giovanni e Paulo. He is buried on the cemetery island of San Michele, in the Orthodox section, close to Diaghilev.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute & Grand Canal, Venice. © Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Sara Mohr-Pietsch:Stravinsky's Legacy (09:28)
‘Everyone, after all, has been influenced by Stravinsky’
The Apollonian Clockwork: On Stravinsky Louis Andriessen and Elmer Schonberger
The Firebird Project
What happened when we brought together young musicians and dancers from southwest London to create their own version of Stravinsky's The Firebird?Explore on the Philharmonia site
RE-RITE allows members of the public to conduct, play and step inside the Philharmonia Orchestra with Esa-Pekka Salonen through audio and video projections of musicians performing Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.Explore on the Philharmonia site
Igor Stravinsky, 1966. © ITAR-TASS Photo Agency / Alamy Stock Photo
- – THE FIREBIRD SUITE
(WITH PAUL RISSMANN) (07:17)
- – THE FIREBIRD SUITE
(WITH ESA-PEKKA SALONEN) (04:18)
- – THE RITE OF SPRING
(WITH PAUL RISSMANN) (09:03)
- – OEDIPUS REX (WITH JONATHAN CROSS AND SIMON RUSSELL BEALE) (06:59)
Myths and Rituals is supported by Vincent Meyer and the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Please visit the section for more information on this project, sponsors and partners.