Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (June 17, 1882 - April 6, 1971) was a Russian-born composer. He is the only classical composer present on Time Magazine's list of "100 People of the 20th Century". Regardless of what criticism people might have of this list, Igor Stravinsky is widely acknowledged as a massively influential composer and one of the most important and iconic figures of modern classical music.
Stravinsky's most famous works include three early ballets: The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring. The Firebird is one of the most accessible and popular works the composer wrote and was his first major work, premiering in 1910. Many people will recognize certain parts of the piece due to its use in Fantasia 2000 and the opening for live concerts of Yes. It was frequently compared to the works of Claude Debussy by critics. It uses many more Romantic elements than Stravinsky's later work.
Petrushka is a ballet about a puppet that come to life. It premiered in 1911, and is a more modernistic work, using more polytonality and polyrhythms. Although less accessible it nevertheless found critical success upon its debut, and is very popular today.
The Rite of Spring was a ballet portraying a savage tribal ritual in which a virgin is sacrificed to bring about spring; it premiered in 1913. It uses dissonance, primitive melodies, polyrhythm, and polytonality, to express this. It was met with extreme hostility on its opening night (the audience rioted, leaving few people in the theater and Stravinsky in tears.) The piece is now critically acclaimed as a masterpiece, and is one of the most famous works of classical music of the modern era, and of all time. Walt Disney even used it in the original Fantasia, which cemented its reputation and even overshadowed it. (Stravinsky is the only composer of a piece used in the Fantasia films that actually was alive to see it used on the movie in theaters. Unfortunately, he hated it.)
This is by no means the entirety of Stravinsky's work, as he went through a multitude of styles after the three ballets for which he is most remembered. His change in style throughout his career has been compared to that of Pablo Picasso. Among other works were the ballet Agon, the ballet Pulcinella, and the opera The Rake's Progress.
Rumoured that he had an affair with French couturier Coco Chanel, although this is likely untrue.
This creator provides examples of the following tropes:
- Avant-garde Music: Stravinsky's music pushed the boundaries of harmony, rhythm, and instrumental technique far beyond what was conventional in his day.
- Art-Style Dissonance: Despite his reputation for dissonance most of his work is actually quite melodic.
- Badass Boast: When Stravinsky played sections of The Rite of Spring to ballet choreographer Sergei Diaghilev Diaghilev was shocked by the dissonance. So he asked Stravinsky: "How long does this go on?" To which the composer snapped back: "Until the very end!"
- Deal with the Devil: Central plot in L'Histoire du Soldat ("The Soldiers' Tale") and The Rake's Progress.
- Decon-Recon Switch: While The Rite of Spring blew up musical conventions, he later became a cofounder of Neoclassicism, which essentially was a Reconstruction of pre-Romantic Classical Music.
- Genre Mashup: Some of this composer's music shows influence of ragtime and jazz.
- All of Ragtime for Eleven Instruments, the solo piano work Piano-Rag-Music, the last movement of the Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo and the ragtime movements from L'Histoire du Soldat ("The Soldiers' Tale") show significant ragtime influence.
- The Ebony Concerto (written for jazz clarinetist Woody Herman) and the second movement of the Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo show significant jazz influence. Other works, such as Agon, Orpheus, Perséphone, and the Symphony in Three Movements do as well, per the composer.
- Homage: The composer wrote several "in memoriam" works, especially in his final years. Not surprising given that he outlived many of his friends.
- An early example of this trope is Symphonies Of Wind Instruments for wind ensemble, which is dedicated to the memory of Claude Debussy.
- In Memoriam Dylan Thomas for tenor voice, string quartet, and four trombones, in memory of this author.
- Epitaphium for flute, clarinet, and harp, in memory of Prince Max Egon zu Fürstenberg.
- Double Canon ('Raoul Dufy in Memoriam') for string quartet, in memory of this painter.
- The last movement of the cantata A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer is dedicated to the memory of Reverend James McLane.
- Elegy for J. F. K. for solo voice and three clarinets, in memory of John F. Kennedy.
- Variations: Aldous Huxley in Memoriam for orchestra, in memory of this author.
- Lighter and Softer: After The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky never wrote anything as overtly extreme or shocking ever again.
- Living Toys: Petrushka, about a puppet that comes to life.
- Mood Motif: Used in L'Histoire du Soldat ("The Soldiers' Tale").
- Odd Friendship: He was mutual admirers with Charlie Parker, surprising many in both the classical and jazz worlds. In retrospect, this shouldn't have been surprising given that some of his music shows jazz and ragtime influence.
- Older Is Better: Between 1920 and 1950 Stravinsky composed a lot of neoclassical works, where he reinvented 18th century style baroque music, sometimes to the point of parody.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Stravinsky is still popularly associated with the scandal of The Rite of Spring, more than any other composition he wrote during his life. Still the infamy helped his name to be recognized all around the world.
- Real Men Love Jesus: After abandoning the Russian Orthodox Christian faith in his mid-teens, Stravinsky reverted to the faith in his early forties and remained devout for the rest of his life. He prayed daily, before and after composing, and when facing difficulty. He even composed some sacred works, like a Roman Catholic Mass and his Symphony of Psalms. He once stated:"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."
- Refuge in Audacity: If you compare The Rite of Spring to the music before it, it's incredibly brutal. It de-emphasized traditional melody (often relying on brief melodic cells), and the overwhelming focus is on pounding, often irregular rhythm. With a good orchestra and conductor in a decent hall, it's like listening to metal, only less predictable and so more disturbing. Back in 1913, there was literally nothing like it.
- Shout-Out: In his neoclassical works Stravinsky often provided little shout outs to composers from previous centuries.
- Small Reference Pools: Stravinsky is the most famous composer of the first half of the 20th century, at any rate.
- Uncommon Time: Used this so much he nearly inverted it, and considered it noteworthy when he wrote a piece (Symphony In C) that had no meter changes at all. Generally considered the Trope Codifier for this tendency in modern Classical Music, and undoubtedly a rather large influence on many of the legions of Progressive Rock and Progressive Metal bands who use the trope as well.
Igor Stravinsky in popular culture:
- Fantasia: The The Rite of Spring segment is a centrepiece in the first film. Igor Stravinsky was brought in to oversee the production, but didn't like how his music was re-edited to match the "story" Disney thought up for it and the small fee he received. He hated what Disney did to his music (mostly due to omitting a crucial ending to the segment out of controversy fears, something that nearly got Walt Disney sued by him) and hated animation for the rest of his life. Fantasia 2000 closes with another edited version of The Firebird.
- Frank Zappa quoted from The Rite of Spring, The Firebird and L'Histoire du Soldat ("The Soldiers' Tale") a few times on his albums.
- Absolutely Free quotes Petrushka during "Status Back Baby", the Royal March from L'Histoire du Soldat ("The Soldiers' Tale") during "Soft Sell Conclusion" and the "Berceuse" from The Firebird during "Amnesia Vivace".
- "Igor's Boogie" from Burnt Weeny Sandwich is a Homage.
- Stravinsky is namedropped as one of the things Zappa might love during "Titties & Beer" from Zappa in New York and Läther.
- "In-A-Gadda-Stravinsky" on Guitar combines In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly with the intro of The Rite of Spring.
- The theme from L'Histoire du Soldat ("The Soldiers' Tale") is covered on Zappa's Make a Jazz Noise Here.
- Mentioned in Allan Sherman's satirical commentary "The Ballad of Oh Boy."
- The 2009 French film Coco Chanel et Igor Stravinsky is a Biopic about the rumored affair between him and fashion designer Coco Chanel.
- My Uncle Oswald: Stravinsky is one of the celebrities of whom Uncle Oswald wants to collect the sperm from.
- The Post-Hardcore band, Rites of Spring, obviously named their band after his most famous ballet.
- The Progressive Rock Yes, as mentioned above, would open their shows with a segment from The Firebird, and claimed him as a major influence on their style overall.
- Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu has said that "One-Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII is a fusion of Stravinsky's style with that of Jimi Hendrix.