Stravinsky – the music revolutionary


When Diaghilev heard some of Stravinsky’s musical compositions, he knew that he had found a genius with which he had to collaborate for his Ballet Russe. And you know what they say: the rest is history.

The young man who had a law degree (and a musical family) could not have dreamt of the fame that the prominent Diaghilev could have brought to him.

It is one thing to write music, to follow in your predecessors’ steps, the rules and the aesthetic must be abode by to write a fine ballet. However, it is the mark of a genius to revolutionize music, to change its aesthetic. And Igor Stravinsky did that.

Of course, you can still see in some of his musical pieces some Western influence, especially in his ”neo-classical” pieces (as opposed to the Russian ones which were believed to be revolutionary).


The Firebird, Stravinsky ’s first ballet

The story is inspired by a Russian fairy tale and is the first ballet that shocked everyone with the complexity of the music (with tones that reminded them of Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, and Rimski-Korsakov) and brought him fame.

A simple ballet with only one act.

Stravinsky, the Firebird

The Firebird, with colorful plumage, flies above a tree with golden fruits without observing Prince Ivan who wants to catch it.

He is successful in his task but takes pity on its pleas of being free and releases it but asks that it gives him a feather.

Thirteen girls start dancing around the tree and when they see Ivan, the most beautiful of them offers him a golden apple. Ivan finds out that they are prisoners of Koschei and swears to release them.

He gets scared when he enters his castle but the Koschei’s guards do not let him leave. The evil wizard is upset that someone entered his garden and wants to kill and turn him into stone.

Ivan takes out the feather and asks the bird for help. It traps the soul of Koschei into an egg and when Ivan breaks it the curse is lifted and he can marry the most beautiful girl.


Petrushka, Stravinsky ’s second ballet

The composer presented a ballet that brought controversies to the audience: the composer tried to find new ways of expressing emotions. The stage is festive, it is a carnival after all, but our hero is sad. The music expresses both these feelings in a way in which the spectators should understand the strange ethos of the composition.

The action takes place during only one act.

Stravinsky, Petrushka

At the carnival in Saint Petersburg, everyone is having fun when the Charlatan comes on the stage to present his puppets: Petrushka, the Moor, and the Ballerina.

The hero loves the Ballerina but she loves the Moor. For this Petrushka strikes him.

The festivities must be cut short. The Charlatan puts Petrushka into his room where he is thinking of the puppet he loves. She comes into his room but acts rather cold.

The Ballerina then goes to the Moor’s room. He acts indifferent to her flirting but quickly gives up the façade. Petrushka enters the room and is banished by the Moor who then kills him in the public square. The people witnessing this are shocked but the Charlatan assures them that it was just a puppet.

In the end, the shadow of Petrushka appears on a roof and threatens everyone who tormented him.

The rite of spring, Stravinsky’s third ballet

Stravinsky, The rite of spring

The music riled up the audience: ballet music should be beautiful, not chaotic and barbaric as Stravinsky composed. However, together with the other three ballets that Stravinsky presented at the contest hosted by Diaghilev at Paris, he changed the style of ballet music.

The first part is a lesson that two old people (a woman and a man) teach to the younger generation, meaning the secrets of nature and how to love it. The music is slow, but gradually it picks up speed and all the characters start to dance.

In the second and last part, all the girls must choose one of them to be sacrificed to the Earth. In the beginning, the music is fast, gradually losing its speed while the chosen girl remains still among the young boys and girls that dance around her. They leave and the chosen girl remains. The elders return and the music starts to pick up speed again. The girl dances till she drops dead.




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