STRAVINSKY by Robert Craft


Glimpses of a Life
Email this review


 A brilliant hodgepodge of pieces about the life and art of the 20th century's greatest composer, by his longtime associate and amanuensis. Caveat for Craft collectors: Some of this material is recycled (e.g., from Present Perspectives, 1984). If the purpose of writing about music and its creators is to send you scrambling to listen to the works themselves, this is an unqualified success. Craft, editor of three volumes of Stravinsky's correspondence and author of numerous writings about the master, has here collected 24 essays containing his ``remarks,'' musings, and reviews of works by and about the composer, approximately half of them previously unpublished. They range from an overview that focuses on Stravinsky's often abrasive personality and the perceived stylistic shifts in his music (``A Centenary View, Plus Ten'') to ``glimpses'' of his less-than-pretty private life (``Sufferings and Humiliations of Catherine Stravinsky'') to pieces focusing on individual compositions (``The Rite at Sixty-Five''; ``Svadebka: An Introduction''). These last constitute by far the best parts of this book. Four chapters devoted to the creation and performance of The Rite of Spring, an analysis of the origin and revisions of Histoire du Soldat, a discussion of the connection between Debussy and the Symphonies of Wind Instruments--all fascinate. Not that Craft can be read without irritation. His familiar insistence on the importance of his own role in Stravinsky's life (and vice versa) looks like narcissism writ large. Similarly, the amount of space devoted to the purely personal seems disproportionate. The longest essay deals with the litigation between Stravinsky's children and his second wife after his death: It's sad stuff, more appropriate to Knots Landing than to a knotty modern master, and not very enlightening about anything. Not for someone who wants linear biography. Probably not for first-time Stravinskians. But for those with an already established interest in the diverse outpourings of a genius, nearly indispensable. (Illustrations.)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-08896-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1992


NonfictionBENJAMIN BRITTEN by Neil Powell
by Neil Powell