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Stravinsky (Stephen Walsh) postscript:

Tuesday 2nd February, no frost, grey rain.

For completism.

I read the second tome of Stephen Walsh's Stravinsky biography (Stravinsky: The Second Exile: France and America, 1934–1971) in December when I had the flu. The massiveness of the book was a friend to me, when the misery of flu was making time pass very slowly, and I'll remember it fondly for that reason.

Whoever said (commenting on my first Stravinsky post), that biographies of artists/musicians are a bit of a pitfall she was dead right, but I'm always curious, it's the History of Ideas student in me. On the whole, I learned a little about Modernism, both brands, and that was interesting (and thanks for the Penderecky tip greywyvern, but I'm not really a convert. I'll dip in and out of Modernism, same as Jazz, but it's not for me). Stravinsky himself becomes more human as he gets older, sheds first the Enfant Terrible and then the HardNosed Marketplace Artist persona. He said, in the end "All artists are carried on the shoulder of tradition", (and went on to reference the St Christopher and the Christ Child legend, which kind of positions Stravinsky as the Christ, ha!; but never mind). He refused, withering the suggestion with scorn, to "interview" Shostakovich, when he visited the USA. "What's the point in talking to him? He is not free!", which shows more sense than other expats tactlessly trying to get the man to denounce the Soviet State.

I listened to a lot of Stravinsky, liked some of it very much (probably, apart from The Rite Of Spring, the least-Stravinskyish works: couldn't get on with the Sacred music at all), & the biography gave me the entry, because I'm the slave of words. But every biographer has a thesis, of course they do or it wouldn't be a book it'd be a list of dates. In Ian MacDonald's dramatic "secret dissident" reading of Shostakovich's career, it's about Soviet history and music-politics and relates directly to the music. Stephen Walsh's big idea is the unmasking of a third party: not Stravinsky, for all his faults, but Robert Craft, Stravinsky's amanuensis, companion, secretary, substitute son. Stravinsky, a "bad, hard-hearted father", who demanded his children's devotion and treated them like chattels, got his come-uppance when he fell into the clutches of a "son", maybe neither bad nor hard-hearted, who worked the old man into the ground, alienated him from his (first) family and treated him like property. . . You can't call this inadmissable, because nobody disputes that Craft did take over Stravinsky's papers. He controlled the composer's post-mortem reputation. If he suppressed, edited, deleted, "interpreted" anything he didn't like, that's got to be fascinating, also very annoying, for any biographer who comes after, and detects the traces. I'm not sure it's all that fascinating for someone trying to place the composer in his times. But you can read Craft's immensely detailed refutation here, if you're really interested.


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graywyvern on :

gracias! --though only some serious sleepdep could've made me spell
PENDERECKI with a Y--!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penderecki

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