July 01, 2007

The Arbitrary and the Inevitable



“Man of 1001 styles,” “chameleonic composer,” “musical trendsetter,” “inventor of musical dishes for world cuisine” – all of these phrases were used at one time or another to describe and honor Igor Stravinsky, the greatest composer of the 20th century. June 17 was the 125th anniversary of his birth.

 

Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich are not only widely accepted as 20th century geniuses, but are also the most famous composers of that century (excepting perhaps Lennon and McCartney). Shostakovich lived in Russia his entire life; Prokofiev lived abroad for 20 years; yet Stravinsky spent two-thirds of his long life in emigration. And so it is often justly asked, whether one can truly call Stravinsky a Russian composer – after all America and France both claim him as one of their own. Stravinsky himself gave the most definitive answer: “I have spoken Russian my entire life, I have a Russian style and it lies at the foundation of all my music.”


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