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WRTI Spotlight

Celebrate the Legacy of Igor Stravinsky on his Birthday: Tuesday, June 17

Sketch of Igor Stravinsky by Pablo Picasso

One of the leading composers of the 20th century, Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was a musical chameleon, employing myriad musical styles and innovations throughout his career ranging from atonal serialism to neoclassicism. The Russian-born cosmopolitan spent much of his life in France and Switzerland before settling in America where he became a naturalized citizen and lived until his death in 1971. Stravinsky's influence reached beyond the concert hall; he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he received a posthumous Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and was listed as one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Listen to music by Stravinsky from 6 am to 6 pm on June 17.Igor Stravinsky's opus features numerous achievements in chamber and symphonic music, as well as opera, but he is most often recognized for the music he composed for ballets. WRTI will feature five of those great ballets throughout the day: The Firebird, Petrushka, Pulcinella, The Fairy's Kiss, and The Rite of Spring.

First premiered in 1910, The Firebird was Stravinsky's breakthrough piece, and the first of multiple collaborations with famed impresario Sergei Diaghilev and his Paris-based Ballet Russes. Based on Russian folk tales, the heartbreakingly beautiful "Berceuse" and the devilish frenzy of the "Infernal dance of King Kashchei" have made this one of Stravinsky's most enduring scores. Audiences responded so well to the traditional folk stories that the following year Stravinsky presented them with Petrushka, based on the tale of a puppet made of straw and sawdust that comes to life and has the capacity to love, essentially Russia's version of Pinocchio. Even at this early stage in Stravinsky's career his musical evolution was progressing rapidly, and Petrushka gave both audiences and orchestras a bit of a shock with its grotesque harmonies and burlesque humor. In 1913 the Vienna Philharmonic at first refused to play it, dubbing it schmutzige Musik (dirty music). They've since come around?

1920's Pulcinella ushered in a new era for Stravinsky as his first full-fledged neoclassical piece. He used music by various 18th century composers, mainly Giovanni Pergolesi, which he then elaborated upon and rewrote in a more modern way by borrowing specific themes and textures, but interjecting modern rhythms and harmonies. He developed the technique further in the ballet The Fairy's Kiss, composed in 1928 and based largely on the early piano music of Tchaikovsky.

Few pieces by Stravinsky, or in the history of music for that matter, have caused such fervor and controversy as the infamous "big bang" of 20th century music, Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring). The intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario of the ballet is still as shocking today as it was for the audience at the Th??tre des Champs-?lys?es in Paris in 1913. The visual and musical brutality drew catcalls and hisses from the crowd at the premier, which soon erupted into full-blown riots and fist fights. Despite such a notorious beginning, performances continued in Paris and eventually around the globe, and Le Sacred du Printemps rightfully took its place as a landmark work in classical music.

Listen to music by Igor Stravinsky on Wednesday, June 17 from 6 am to 6 pm.

More Information:
Igor Stravinsky on Wikipedia