In September 1939, Igor Stravinsky left Europe for the United States to ensure a cycle of lectures at Harvard University. These lectures were subsequently published in a book entitled "Poétique Musicale" (1942), translated into English as "Poetics of Music" (1947).
Stravinsky’s home - Hollywood *
Los Angeles, during the war, had a rich cultural life with many expatriate artists and intellectuals settled there. Stravinsky built a new circle of friends. He enjoyed, among others, the company of such English writers as Aldous Huxley and W.H. Auden, with whom he later collaborated, as well as the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. The post-war years were serene for Stravinsky who now enjoyed good health and was free of financial worries.
Arriving in the United States, Stravinsky had already begun his t (Symphonie en Ut), completed in 1940. Produced by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, it is his most important symphonic work. His first American composition was Tango (1940), inspired by his trips to Mexico. In 1941, his arrangement of the American national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, for mixed choir and orchestra led to his arrest during its performance in Boston. Stravinsky had inadvertently violated a federal law that prohibits changing the national anthem.
Thanks to his satisfactory working conditions, Stravinsky was able to fulfill many requests. Among the most important works produced were Danses Concertantes for chamber orchestra (1942), choreographed by George Balanchine, and Scenes de Ballet for orchestra (1944), intended for a Broadway revue entitled "The Seven Lively Arts."
Igor Stravinsky in his study - Hollywood
Stravinsky was also invited by a Hollywood impresario to work on a collective project, Genesis, for which he composed the cantata Babel (1944). Stravinsky simultaneously wrote a charming work, his Sonata for Two Pianos and Ode, an elegy dedicated to the wife of the famous conductor Koussevitzsky, founder of the “Russian Music Editions” which published most of Stravinsky’s early works. Stravinsky had grown more interested in jazz, composing Scherzo à la Russe for Jazz Ensemble in 1944 and, the following year, Ebony Concerto, a unique piece for the Woody Herman jazz orchestra. The year 1945 also saw the birth of one of his masterpieces, the monumental Symphony in Three Movements, dubbed by some the "War Symphony" in that Stravinsky was deeply moved by the events of World War II.
In 1948, Stravinsky made the acquaintance of a young conductor, Robert Craft, who became his assistant. In the 1950s, facing the impact of the three Viennese - Schoenberg, Berg and Webern - and due to Craft’s influence, Stravinsky took a new direction, changing his musical language.
Igor Stravinsky – Venice – 1956
Stravinsky next fulfilled a commission by Paul Sacher of the Basel Chamber Orchestra for a cantata, A Sermon, A Narrative, A Prayer (1961). Then, he created an entertaining piece of music for the CBS television program, "The Flood", an account of the Noah and the Ark story (1962).
That same year, on January 18, the President and Mrs. Kennedy invited Stravinsky to the White House for a dinner in his honour. One year later, after the assassination of the President, he would compose Elegy for JFK, commissioned for a poem by his friend W.H. Auden.
In 1962, Stravinsky also accepted the USSR’s invitation to come and conduct his own music on the occasion of his 80th birthday. After 48 years of exile, on September 21, Stravinsky received a welcome worthy of a Head of State in Moscow. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev personally received the Stravinskys in the Kremlin during their stay. On October 4, the composer arrived in St. Petersburg (at that time, called Leningrad). For three weeks, Stravinsky gave concerts, attended performances, saw the sights, and participated in receptions, luncheons and dinners. From all sides, he received a warm and cordial welcome.
Igor Stravinsky – Hollywood, 1962
Stravinsky last major work was The Requiem Canticles (1965/1966), commissioned by the University of Princeton in New Jersey. This rigorous, abstract work created in 1966 under the direction of Robert Craft would be performed at Stravinsky’s funeral five years later, after the requiem of Alessandro Scarlatti. Stravinsky’s last composition, The Owl and the Pussycat (1966), based on a poem by Edward Lear, was dedicated to his wife Vera.
San Michele Cemetery – Venise
In 1969 Stravinsky moved to New York. After several stays in hospital, he spent the summer of 1970 in Evian, where he visited with his European family. Stravinsky died on April 6, 1971 in his New York apartment at the age of 88. His funeral took place on April 15 in Italy, in the noble city of Venice. According to his will, he was buried in San Michele, near his friend and companion-in-exile Sergei Diaghilev who had first sensed Stravinsky’s genius and revealed it to the world.
* Photo Katya Chilingiri – katyachilingiri.com