This week was the 50th anniversary of Stravinsky’s death. For a long time now, I have often thought to myself, “why do I so rarely hear Stravinsky’s music on the radio anymore.” Of course, with this anniversary, his music was back on the radio – but for how long? Just for the week? When I was a young music student, Stravinsky as a composer was in the pantheon of the composing gods! What a master! What made his work fall, to a large extent, out of favor?
At least in my own mind, I have always thought of Stravinsky as the musical equivalent of Picasso. Yes, they remain associated with one another because of their work together, but beyond that, Stravinsky, as was Picasso, was an artistic chameleon over the course of his career. Listening to his entire body of work, he transforms himself, much in the way that Picasso did, going through different “periods” – always exploring, always re-inventing himself.
There are many great artists of the same period whose work I love, but whose entire body of work is of a whole. Miro, Dubuffet, Mondrian are examples – they invented their own language and explored every nook and cranny of that world – but still, as delightful as is their art, they were one trick ponies. Not so, Picasso, and certainly not so, Stravinsky. If one did not already know Stravinsky’s body of work, and were listening to his music from different periods, one could hardly conclude you were listening to the same composer.
And such inventiveness! He covers the gamut – minimalist, classicist, modernist, romantic, impressionist, serialist. And when I tune into New Sounds on occasion, it is hard to imagine much of what I hear there being composed without Stravinsky paving the way – whether they know it or not!