STRAVINSKY: SELECTED CORRESPONDENCE, Vol. I by Robert--Ed. Craft

STRAVINSKY: SELECTED CORRESPONDENCE, Vol. I

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Craft, Stravinsky's longtime scholar-in-residence, plans three volumes of ""Selected Correspondence."" But, judging by this first installment, a single volume would have been a better idea--since the nine-part material here (much of it not by Stravinsky) is too sketchy and edited to please scholars, too trivia-ridden to engage a general music readership. First comes Craft's brief summary of correspondence from (or about) ""saintly"" first-wife Catherine--an invalid who tolerated (even enjoyed vicariously) Igor's longterm relationship with future-wife Vera; brief excerpts from letters, some of them cruelly sad, are strung together with Craft's narration. Then: a short, vacuous batch of letters (1912-23) from French composer Maurice Delage (one of the two S. replies does comment on Mahler's 8th); and some more substantial letters from Muzyka editor V. Derzhanovsky (1912-14), though here too the composer side is mostly missing--sometimes exasperatingly so. Far more promising, of course, is the Cocteau material, much of it about Oedipus Rex--but again the correspondence is often one-sided, with Cocteau's familiar ideas on Diaghilev, staging, etc., in the fore; a slightly richer glimpse of collaboration comes in the very short give-and-take with Auden on The Rake's Progress (intriguing bits on vocal rhythms); and better still, though also brief, are S.'s letters on ballet music (sometimes a ""matter of 'plastic' incompatibility"") to Lincoln Kirstein, whose exuberant missives offer the only really enjoyable reading here. The largest and most plainly informative section, however, presents S.'s letters to conductor Ernest Ansermet, 1914-66: he rails against Diaghilev's dealings (business predominates), against Koussevitzky, against Soviet music; he comments on programming, instrumentation, tempi; he forbids cuts (source of a falling-out with Ansermet); he displays his obsession with public opinion. But one must wade through much trivia to rescue nuggets of interest here--as with, also, letters to Nadia Boulanger and some 1940s letters (a more relaxed, witty group) to Craft. And though Craft annotates with a vengeance, he does so inconsistently, leaving unexplained ellipses and a faint aroma of expurgation. (A bewildering bonus: a botch-porch of appendices, from documents to scholarly histories of some compositions' revisions.) In all: an odd piece of scholarship, certainly essential to serious Stravinsky scholars--who must take what they can get--but an unappetizing item for anyone else.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1982
Publisher: Knopf