The pleasures of Igor Stravinsky (June 17 1882 to April 6 1971).
The Russian composer, pianist, and conductor is widely acknowledged as one of the most important composers of 20th century music. (Especially when Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the century.) Some of his most popular works include The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911/1947) and The Rite of Spring (1913).
The pleasure of being in love.
Although he was a family man, the rumoured-truth is that Stravinsky had a steamy affair d’amour with Coco Chanel in Paris in 1920, the year that Chanel No. 5 was created. (Have you seen the film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky? Even though it received weaksauce reviews in Toronto, I still really want to watch it.) “What force is more potent than love?”
The pleasure in picking on harp players.
I don’t envy the harpists who played under his baton. “Harpists spend 90 percent of their lives tuning their harps and 10 percent playing out of tune.”
The pleasure of being a devout member of the church.
“I was born out of due time in the sense that by temperament and talent I should have been more suited for the life of a small Bach, living in anonymity and composing regularly for an established service and for God. The Church knew what the psalmist knew: Music praises God. Music is well or better able to praise him than the building of the church and all its decoration; it is the Church’s greatest ornament.”
Perhaps this is what made his music so revolutionary. His composition style moved along with and reflected the changes in his life. He tried anything he wanted to at the time — from nationalism to vibrant modernism, a radical experimental phase to scaled down minimalism, ballet to choral to solo piano works — but throughout it all Stravinsky stayed true to himself. What remained constant was the Russian folk flavour, rhythmic energy, orchestral virtuosity, clarity of sound, and concise form. “I am in the present. I cannot 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.”
Here is a rare video of the composer conducting his own Firebird Suite at the age of 82. (The Toronto Symphony Orchestra will perform this at Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday night followed by a tsoundcheck party. Tickets are only $14. I’m sorry I can’t be there. *sigh*)