November 27, 2019

Stravinsky as Modern Classic

What is classical music? Even some 20th century music and composers are already considered classics, such as Stravinsky. As Tomoko says, “I like to keep up with new music.” She and her students performed the first of half of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, for instance, which was a far cry from Tomoko’s typical repertoire of romantics and earlier composers. 
So what makes Stravinsky a modern classic? His revolutionary musical design, which might reflect his Russian background. 

Stravinsky was born in 1882 near Saint Petersburg to a musical family. However, his parents wanted him to study law. Because of the 1905 Russian Revolution, the law school shut down, and Stravinsky focused on music, studying with composer Rimsky-Korsakov. 

Rite of Spring was one of his early compositions, written for the Ballet Russes. Its premier in 1913 was greeted demonstrations, largely because of Nijinsky’s shocking dance moves. Nevertheless, the ballet style did reflect the primitive Russian tone and clashing rhythms of the piece.

Stravinsky then moved to France, which marked his neoclassical period, both in terms of compositional style and mythological themes. 

At the start of World War II, Stravinsky settled in the U.S.  He especially enjoyed the cultural life in Los Angeles, and even has a story on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. During this time he began incorporating twelve-tone and other serial techniques in his compositions. Stravinsky was also a successful pianist and conductor. 

Stravinsky, who died in 1971, was known for his stylistic diversity; he kept exploring different ways to create music. One can be both classic and modern. In that respect, he echoes Tomoko’s philosophy: “All performers have responsibility to keep up.”

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