Stravinsky Retrospectives

By Ethan Haimo; Paul Johnson | Go to book overview
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Thirteen years after his death Stravinsky remains as important and fascinating a figure as he was during his life. Both his music and personality still command a level of attention, interest, and respect afforded very few figures in music history.

Of course, the nature of our relationship with him and his music has changed. No longer do we wait with excitement and curiosity to see what new direction his ever fertile imagination would take him. Nor can we wonder what unexpectedly different compositions might appear, challenging afresh our notion of the Stravinsky "style." No more do we expect to be given a new and piquantly different glass through which to examine yet another corner of our musical past. Nor can we anticipate still more perceptive, outrageous, trenchant, cultured, witty, and thought-provoking comments on music, musicians, and society. All that is past.

With the hindsight of thirteen years, it is now beginning to be possible to gain a perspective on Stravinsky's achievement as a whole -- to see more clearly his effect on his contemporaries and to begin to make some estimation of his position in history. As we look back at him, at his life, his career and works, we become keenly aware that the very process of looking back keeps him part of our current musical lives: not just part of our past but of our present and future as well. Like all great composers of the past, he continually exerts his influence on our consciousness each time we think about him, discuss his contributions, hear his music, analyze his scores, or argue about the aesthetic he represented. We should not forget that many of the compositional problems Stravinsky faced are still central to contemporary compositional thinking. Questions of hierarchy, the function of rhythm in nontonal music, the nature of form, notions of interval, and above all, the ephemeral search for compositional direction are all problems the contemporary composer faces daily and were all faced squarely, and inimitably, by Stravinsky. The musical


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