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A Conversation with Igor Stravinsky, 1957

A Conversation with Igor Stravinsky, 1957

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Famous for music that bewildered and, in some cases, even outraged the public, Igor Stravinsky was nevertheless a sincere and enthusiastic communicator when it came to discussing his work.

This 1957 NBC program opens with the composer at his piano as he creates a “sketch” or initial concept for a new piece; it then records a detailed conversation between Stravinsky and his protégé, respected American musicologist and conductor Robert Craft.

The Russian émigré contemplates his youthful studies under Rimsky-Korsakov; the hostility with which The Rite of Spring was received; his fondness for the Paris milieu that included Picasso and other members of the modernist avant-garde; his reasons for conducting his own work, whenever possible; and his eulogistic piece written for Dylan Thomas, originally intended as an opera.

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This video records Stravinsky in 1957 conversing with Robert Craft

Beyond being able to see and hear Stravisnky in his work, there are a number of concepts, ideas, and details of his process that are extremely valuable to every musician and composer.

It is interesting to see his workplace, to see him write on the piano and his dependence on writing, which he always talks about and finds justification.

In a first stage Stravinsky doubted the validity of writing on the instrument, however over time he accepts this method and defends it at least as the best option for him.

Some interesting topics that he discusses and explains in the conversation.

The need to play the music, to make it physical. Listen and feel the vibration.

Enjoy the physical aspect, and not just the abstract.

His composition routine, always with the instrument.

The search for arrangements based on intervals and the shape of the hand.

Chance and determination.

Elements of determination that lead to creation.

Describes your ability to internally hear the timbre of instruments.

He defines it as a skill of the imagination.

Despite playing on the piano, he hears the note with the sound of the chosen instrument.

The importance of sustained work, of the trade made based on the insistence on the production of work.

His feelings in front of the piano in his beginnings, some indications of the need to create and experiment.

The first years of study of harmony and counterpoint. The rejection by the study of the traditional harmony but the attraction towards the counterpoint.

The conflict with his teacher, student of R. Korsakov.

Korsakov as a teacher, his dedication, his self-taught training, experimentation and auditory development. The condition of natural musician, memory.

RK’s recommendation not to go to the conservatory, but to study with him.

The period with Diaghilev. The beginnings, the consecration, the Rosignol. Trips.

The group of artists, Cocteau, Picasso.

The post-war period. The interest in earlier forms, sonata, fugues, canon, etc.

Schoenberg, Webern, and Apollon Musagete.

Music for Dylan Thomas, the rigid and formal construction principles, the series, the atonal, the dissonance and the rejection of the public.

His activity as conductor.

The importance of conducting for a composer.

Stravinsky: Stravinsky: The Firebird (Abbado – LSO)