Igor Stravinsky – the World-Famous Genius

November 17, 2016 | Articles

At the end of the XIX century Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky was born. Igor Fyodorovich went down in history, as one of the most talented and famous composers of the XX century. He was born in 1882 to the ravishing thunder of Strauss waltzes and on a year after the assassination of Alexander II the Liberator, who had abolished the serfdom.

The father of the composer, Fyodor Ignatievich Stravinsky, was born in Chernigov Governorate , studied in Nizhyn lyceum, made his debut in Kiev in 1873, and from 1876 he sang at the Mariinsky Theater. His mother, Anna Kirillovna (singer, pianist, accompanist and concertmaster of the father), was born in the town of Ustyluh that in Volyn, near Volodymyr-Volynskyi. Stravinsky spent his childhood in Petersburg. The environment, in which the boy grew up, was historically saturated with the sounds of music: the house sounded with opera and romance music from an untold repertoire of his father. Artists and writers often visited them. All conditions were created to reveal the talent. The abundance of classics can explain the beginning of the would-be musician’s path in the modernism.

Igor Stravinsky

The parents of Igor Stravinsky

Practice in music started in 9 years. Those were piano lessons. After completion of the gymnasium Igor Stravinsky entered the Faculty of Law of the Saint Petersburg University. He still practiced music in his free time, he showed his compositions to no one and did not perform them in public. At the university Igor Stravinsky made friends with Vladimir Rimsky-Korsakov, a son of the famous composer. With the mediation of the new comrade Igor showed his creations to the great N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov. He had a reputation for being a downright kind of man and did not pay compliments to the young author at a glance, but he noted the author’s unconditional talent. This event was decisive in his music maturation and in his 20 years Igor Stravinsky became a disciple of one of the world’s greatest musicians.

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky grew up in the creative environment.

In the house of Rimsky-Korsakov, which was attended by him a lot, Stravinsky consequently become one of the family. He found an extremely creative artistic environment there. A. Lyadov, A. Glazunov, F. Chaliapin, V. Stasov, F. Blumenfeld met here, practiced music, talked about art.

These classes, which began nearly 1902, were in the nature of the private lessons and were not always regular. In order not to waste time, Rimsky-Korsakov proposed Igor to take additional lessons from V.P. Kalafati. Lessons had not been in vain, as at their completion Stravinsky mastered the composer’s trade in perfect. Rimsky-Korsakov’s influence was determinative in this period. However early Stravinsky’s compositions indicate that he was sensitive to the achievements of Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, Scriabin. In 1908 Rimsky-Korsakov had passed away, and Stravinsky took hard the teacher’s death by feeling the son’s love to the composer. To the memory of Rimsky-Korsakov he devotes the orchestral “Funeral Song”. This work sounded only once and relegated in time. Up to so far there has been found neither the score nor the orchestral parts.

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov

From 1910 the Stravinsky family lived in France and Switzerland. The young artist does not wish to return to Russia where it was harder and harder to create. The question of removal to Europe was answered by the composer clearly and laconically: “For the sake of freedom of creativity and the health of my wife”.

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Stravinsky with his wife Catherine Nosenko

His first major works, which brought him fame, Stravinsky wrote during the cooperation with Sergei Diaghilev. Who knows, how further Stravinsky’s life would have been without his acquaintance with the tireless advocate of Russian art abroad. In the beginning of XX century became the head of the journal entitled “World of Art”. Considering the fact that the West knew impermissibly little about Russian art, he was sent to Paris and organized the cycle of symphonic, opera and ballet concerts, which were described as “Russian Seasons” by him.

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Diaghilev

Diaghilev invited the opera and ballet troupes, organized the show of the best performances. Owing to Diaghilev Europe discovered Fyodor Chaliapin, Ivan Ershov, Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Vaslav Nijinsky.

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“S. Diaghilev with friends in Nice (in the center – T.Karsavina Vaslav Nijinsky, I.Stravinsky) 1911″

Diaghilev looked for a bright, bizarre ballet, with the fabulous plot, the ballet, which clearly demonstrated the Russian beginning. He ordered the ballet from Anatoly Lyadov, however the composer lingered for some reason. There was a little time left and Diaghilev risked by turning to young Stravinsky. So that was an inception of three ballets: “The Firebird” (1910), “Petrushka” (1911) and “The Rite of Spring” (1913).

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky and Vaslav Nijinsky.

The premiere of “The Firebird” was held in Paris on June 25, 1910 and brought the world fame to Igor Stravinsky. Critics noted the continuity of some composer’s ideas with those of late Rimsky-Korsakov (“Kashchey the Deathless”, “The Golden Cockerel”). In “The Firebird”, however, Stravinsky’s most characteristic features were sufficiently vivid in evidence. The direct convergence and fruitful cooperation of Stravinsky with the personalities of the “World of Art” (Diaghilev, Golovin, Benoit, Roerich, Fokin, Bakst, Serov, Goncharova) began.

Igor Stravinsky

Léonide Massine, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Igor Stravinsky and Léon Bakst at the terrace by the “Bellerive”. Photo by J. Perret

He drew attention of French musicians, in particular he met Paul Dukas, Claude Debussy, made friends with Maurice Ravel, was included in the various artistic societies.

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy, Paris, June 1910 (Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel).

The fate of Igor Stravinsky, the world-famous genius of music, incorporates all challenges of the time, its social and cultural crises. However, Stravinsky’s real challenge was meeting with the French fashion designer Coco Chanel, love affair with whom was an amazing and mysterious story of the past century.

Igor Stravinsky

Coco Chanel (first to the right), Igor Stravinsky (third to the right)

The Ukrainian motives arose in Stravinsky’s mind and became shaped in scandal, unprecedented and shocking work “The Rite of Spring” with its innovative concept. Scandal premiere of “The Rite of Spring” was held in 1913, in Paris, the center of European culture. The audience sophisticated in their aesthetic tastes was not ready to see and hear that: rhythmic dissonance and screaming choreography, innovation and challenge. In a noisy darkness of Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, there sat a woman of fashion, aesthete and a fashion designer known for a long time Coco Chanel.

She closely observed the chaos both at the scene and around it, but only one person concerned her most of all. The one who is to blame for this storm of emotions and experiences. Coco had a nose for all new and actual as well, that is why there was no dissatisfaction of surrounding people that could hide Stravinsky’s talent from her eyes. Despite the desire of the modeler to see the bold genius, the meeting did not take place. Stravinsky was too disturbed about his failure and did not have the desire and the spiritual forces to any unnecessary conversations. The two charismatic personalities had not met at that time, but their life paths briefly crossed.

Diamond Sapphire Gold Cufflinks & Tie Clip Set by Lobortas House

Diamond Sapphire Gold Cufflinks & Tie Clip Set by Lobortas House.

Music historians of the twentieth century are united in the view that “The Rite of Spring” made an impression of bomb blast upon the music world, and concur in the assessment of the effects of the explosion. The chain reaction, caused by that, was so powerful and continuous that its impact has not terminated up to the present time.

Seven years later Coco and Igor meet again. It is documented that in years difficult for Stravinsky in Paris Coco Chanel sheltered him and his first wife, who had been already ill with tuberculosis and four children, at Parisian villa, and gave money to restore the ballet “The Rite of Spring”. The summer of 1920, spent together, the cottage villa near Paris, was the miracle – Stravinsky was working on a new music, Chanel creates a revolutionary and eternal Chanel No. 5.

The first advertising Chanel No. 5, 1921.

The first advertising Chanel No. 5, 1921.

The successful fashion designer was Stravinsky’s patron and had contributed a lot to the development of his talent. She not only allowed his family to live in her house, but constantly sent money to the composer. In the end, such sacrifices are unlikely to be taken at their surface value, as cold-blooded Coco Chanel knew the price of money, and did not give them to anyone, no matter who. Even the biographers, who had spent their lives next to the legends of world culture, could not say anything with certainty about the close relationship between Igor Stravinsky and Coco Chanel. Friends, relatives and the characters of the story presented the facts in different ways, what more and more shrouded them in mystery.

The Stravinsky’s words about Coco Chanel are consonant with this story: “This woman was forged by her time and history of that Epoch. Moreover, she was one of those who herself helped to hammer the history. She had a great sense of style, she was always womanly without taking any efforts. This feature of hers was attractive. I am sure that I could fall in love with her, but she was most likely to eat me at breakfast.

"Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" Movie (2009)

“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” Movie (2009)

The creative path of Stravinsky ran across the world shaken by the October Revolution, the First and the Second World Wars. As the composer confessed he lived “con tempo” (with time). His music reflected both storms and contradictions of the century, and the dream of harmony, aesthetic order.

From the mid-1930s he was on tour in the USA more often, and then he decided to move there at all, and the reason to move there was the beginning of the Second World War. The end of 1930s and 1940s brought a lot of grief to the composer’s life. A lot of relatives had died at that time – his daughter and wife from tuberculosis, and his mother. The musician had got a profound moral depletion, however he handled all the misfortunes and continued to create. In the end he got married again to a woman, whom he had known for more than 20 years. He purchased a villa in Hollywood, and in 1945 takes the American citizenship.

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George Balanchine, Igor Stravinsky and Walt Disney in the Walt Disney Studios. /1939/ © Walt Disney Archives

His sole mission is to teach, create, experiment. Once he even arranged hymn of the USA as an experiment. As a result, local police arrested Stravinsky for the too “neoclassical” treatment with the tradition and warned that there is a responsibility in the form of fines for the distortion of the anthem.

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Igor Stravinsky’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The magnitude of his personal contacts with prominent persons is unprecedented. N. Rimsky-Korsakov, A. Lyadov, A. Glazunov, V. Stasov, S. Diaghilev, A. Benoit, N. Roerich, A. Matisse, P. Picasso, R. Rolland, T. Mann, A. Gide, C. Chaplin, K. Debussy, M. M. Ravel, A. A. Schönberg, P. Hindemith, Manuel de Falla, G. Fauré, E. Satie.

Summer 1915: Igor Stravinsky, Ruzhena Khvoshchinskaya, Sergei Diaghilev, Leon Bakst are posing before the Bellerive Villa. Photo J. Perret
The entire life Stravinsky was in the center of public attention at the crossroads of major artistic ways. The geography of his life covers many countries. The public often did not understand him, the criticism did not know what to think, a few progressive intellectuals supported him. But Stravinsky was still worshiped.

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Jean Cocteau , Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky and ballerina Olga Khokhlova, 1926.

The exclusive priority of Classic Jewelry House “Lobortas”, which specializes in the creation of the special objects of the highest level that immediately become the reference standards of jewelry and applied arts and are of great historic significance, is the establishment and development a new and unique solutions.

Igor Stravinsky won reputation of the audacious tradition overthrower. There is a multiplicity of styles in his music, constantly overlapping and sometimes it is difficult to define the classification, it is similar to magician from his ballet “Petrushka” – he freely moves genres, shapes, styles at his creative scene as if subduing them to the rules of his own game, claiming that “Music is able to express only itself”. Having inspired with Igor Stravinsky’s creative works artisans of the Lobortas Classic Jewelry House have created unique cufflinks, as in the mirror reflecting the processes of development of the Contemporary Jewelry Art in them.

Igor Stravinsky

The cufflinks “Stravinsky” (gold, silver, black diamonds, topazes) House of Lobortas.

Igor Stravinsky writes in his “dialogs”: “I love to write music more than the music itself. I was born not in time. By temperament and inclinations i should have (although in another extent) lived, as Bach, in obscurity and regularly create for the specified service and God. In the days of my concerts I always became very irritable, and although my discontent (with any of my particularly favorite cufflinks or a rebellious adolescent collar), certainly, always has some of the grounds, it is at the same time can serve as an illustration of the behaviorism. I survived in a world, in which was born… I survived… Despite the mercantilism of publishers, music festivals, advertising… “.

Coco Chanel died in January 1971, from a heart attack in the elegant Parisian Hôtel Ritz, either being in a luxurious atmosphere, or in the originality to the detriment of herself, and next to the Coco bed there was an icon given by Stravinsky in 1920.

Having lived the great life, Igor Stravinsky visited his beloved Volyn and died in April 1971, having outlived Yuri Gagarin, the breakdown of The Beatles” and Coco Chanel in three months. Relations between Stravinsky and Chanel is a symbol of the historical and cultural changes, and the symbol of meeting and the separation of the great eras. And further – the music and the perfumes only…

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky