Composers from Amazon.com's Get Started in Classical:
This is from Amazon.com's Get Started in Classical.
List of Composers
Igor Stravinsky's early ballets were a defining point of musical
modernism and continue to exert their thrilling power
From our perspective at the close of the 20th century, we
have a clearer view of the various revolutions in music that
so dramatically punctuate the modern era. These have
included both frustrating dead ends and exciting
breakthroughs. And as for the latter, there can be little doubt
that Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) presented the century with
some of its most colossal examples. In fact, the achievements of his long,
richly creative career still maintain their startling power and charge, and
they continue to inspire a host of composers at work today.
Like the distinct phases that subdivide the work of Picasso, Stravinsky's
music evolved through a series of sharply contrasting styles. He first
shook the music world to its core--after an astonishingly brief period of
traditional apprenticeship--with a succession of ballet scores based on
memories of his native Russia. If you define yourself as someone for
whom "modern music" has always seemed like a distressingly foreign
language, these ballets of Stravinsky's first great period make an excellent
and thrilling place to begin.
For all their significance as landmarks of a new approach to the composition of music, they quite
simply offer captivating sonic experiences: all you need are open ears to enjoy their vibrancy of color
and explosive surges of energy. In Pétrouchka, for example (written in 1911 for ballet director
Serge Diaghilev and danced by the legendary Nijinsky), Stravinsky stages the carnival backdrop
against which this story of a jealous puppet unfolds with swirling patches of musical activity. In place
of the traditional statement of full-length melodies and linear development of material, he abruptly
cuts from one episode to another, then repeats, and--foreshadowing the experiments of a postwar
generation of electronic composers--splices these fragments together. The effect is rather like that
of the technique of film montage, inviting a new kind of involvement on the part of the listener that
replaces the long-reigning Romantic notion of music as subjective self-expression.
You will also hear Stravinsky's unmistakable signature in his brilliant mixture of a rich palette of
instrumental timbres--he was after all a student of the great orchestral colorist
Rimsky-Korsakov--and in the score's rhythmic vitality. One of Stravinsky's great achievements was
to unleash the powerful element of rhythm from what had been a largely subservient role in Western
classical music. By making rhythm a primary focus, Stravinsky would have a seismic impact two
years later with The Rite of Spring (1913), one of the touchstones in the era of modern music. One
could spend a lifetime dissecting the complex array of rhythms sounding simultaneously in different
meters throughout this score; but the visceral reaction they awaken, together with Stravinsky's
fabulous dissonances, is immediate and unforgettable. At the same time, you won't fail to notice the
unique quality of colors Stravinsky draws together, particularly in his expansive use of woodwinds in
the opening of Part One. The sense of pagan antiquity and primordial nature crackling to life that
begins with the bassoon's bizarrely high-pitched first note and then stretches through a motley choir
of winds is one of the most astonishing sounds in all of music. These accounts of both scores are
particularly fine: conducted by Pierre Boulez, an authority on modern and contemporary music, they
impart the kind of maximum clarity and precision for which Boulez is celebrated. This is an essential
disc for anyone setting out to know and enjoy the music of our time.
Thomas May, Classical Editor
More Stravinsky can be found in Musical Information and Recommendations for Adults.
O'Connor Music Studio Recommendations
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