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Igor Stravinsky and Classical Music of the 20th Century

Enjoy the fantastic classical music by Igor Stravinsky on Calm Radio — one of the greatest modern composers of the 20th century.

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was a Russian-born composer and one of the most influential contributors to 20th century music. He is best remembered for some of his ballet works The Rite of Spring, The Firebird and Petrushka.

Here are some interesting life facts about Stravinsky.

Russian Roots

Stravinsky was born in 1882 near St. Petersburg, Russia. His father was a leading opera bass singer and his mother was a pianist. Despite his enthusiasm for music, his father insisted he study law. In the summer of 1902, he stayed with famed composer Rimsky-Korsakov in the German city of Heidelberg, after which he became Stravinsky’s private teacher and mentor.

Overnight Success

The famed impresario Serge Diaghilev was so impressed by Stravinsky, that he commissioned a work for the ballet The Firebird. Stravinsky became an overnight sensation after the premiere at the Paris Opera on June 25, 1910. This made Stravinsky known as the most gifted of the younger generation of composers. This was the first of many spectacular collaborations between Stravinsky and Diaghilev’s company.

The Riot

At the premiere of The Rite of Spring in 1913, the audience was in such an uproar that the dancers couldn’t hear the orchestra. The spectators even attacked each other with fist fights and threw vegetables at the orchestra. They objected at the musical dissonance and jerky dance movements. Stravinsky was annoyed at their reaction, and recounts “I went out, and said ‘Go to hell.’”

A Citizen of the World

In 1940, after having lost his wife, daughter and mother within a year, he moved to America. By 1945, he had remarried and obtained his American citizenship. Stravinsky had written an arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner using one of his signature dominant 7th chords, which led him to an incident with Boston Police in 1944. Rumour has it that Stravinsky was arrested, which started a national uproar.

The Creative Elite

While living in Paris as a spectacular modern composer, Stravinsky got to know other contemporary giants, including Pablo Picasso (who made several drawings of him), Charlie Chaplin and Coco Chanel. While living in Beverly Hills in L.A., Stravinsky was visited by famed writers Dylan Thomas, Aldous Huxley, W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood.

The Chic Benefactor

Stravinsky lost everything in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Having no income and a wife and four children to provide for, he and his family were taken in by Coco Chanel to live in her villa. She supported them for two years until Stravinsky became financially independent again.

Affair with Coco Chanel

Although still somewhat of a rumour, Stravinsky and Chanel became lovers while living together. They were likely influenced by each other creatively. Chanel released her iconic perfume Chanel No. 5 and Stravinsky began composing in a neoclassical style during this time.

The Star Lives On

Stravinsky passed away on April 6, 1971 in New York of heart failure at the age of 88. He is the only classical composer to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was also awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously in 1987.

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