Widely regarded as the greatest composer of the twentieth century, Igor Stravinsky was central to the development of modernism in art, yet no dependable biography of him exists. Previous studies have drawn too heavily from his own unreliable memoirs and conversations, and until now no biographer has possessed both the musical knowledge to evaluate his art and the linguistic proficiency needed to explore the documentary background of his life--a life whose span extended from tsarist Russia to Switzerland, France, and ultimately the United States.
In this revealing volume, the first of two, Stephen Walsh follows Stravinsky from his birth in 1882 to 1934. He traces the composer's early Russian years, laying bare the complicated relationships within his family and showing how he first displayed his extraordinary talents. Stravinsky's brilliantly creative involvement with the Ballets Russes is illuminated by a sharp sense of the internal artistic politics that animated the group. Portraying Stravinsky's circumstances as an emigré in France trying to make his living as a conductor and pianist as well as a composer, Walsh reveals the true roots of his notorious obsession with money. He also describes the nature of his long affair with Vera Sudeykina.
While always respecting Stravinsky's own insistence that life and art be kept distinct, Stravinsky makes clear precisely how the development of his music was connected to his life and to the intellectual environment in which he found himself. But at the same time it demonstrates the composer's remarkably pragmatic psychology, which led him to consider the welfare of his art to be of paramount importance, before which everything else had to give way. Walsh, long established as an expert on Stravinsky's music, has drawn upon a vast array of material, much of it unpublished or unavailable in English, to bring the man himself, in all his color and genius, to glowing life.
Stephen Walsh is a critic and musicologist who has written extensively on Stravinsky and other modern composers. He is Reader in Music at Cardiff University.