Simply Stravinsky

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“This is a short book but a teeming one, boiling over with the insights that have accrued over forty years and more, ever since Pieter van den Toorn set the musicological world on its ear with his revelations about Stravinsky's creative methods, deduced from an unprecedentedly close and fruitful examination of the published scores. Since then he has been at the manuscripts as well, and has made even further-reaching observations about Stravinsky's epochal rhythmic innovations. All of this he now places at the disposal of musicians and general readers, laid out with a chronology of the composer's life and times—a great gift to us all and a fitting crown to a most distinguished scholarly career.”
—Richard Taruskin, author of Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) divided his time between law studies and music until 1906, when, under the tutelage of composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, he dedicated himself exclusively to composition. Five years later, he achieved international fame with his ballet scores The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring, the last of which caused a riot at its Paris premiere in 1913. For the next 50 years, both Stravinsky’s music style and his life were characterized by dramatic changes, as he moved from his “Russian period” to neo-classicism to serialism, and from Russia to Switzerland to France to the United States. Yet no matter how much his style changed, his music was always distinctively his, and his compositions remain among the greatest produced in the twentieth century.

In Simply Stravinsky, Professor Pieter van den Toorn takes a fresh look at the composer and his legacy, providing a compact, exciting, and accessible introduction to the twentieth century’s most celebrated composer and his timeless music. From Stravinsky’s apprenticeship in St. Petersburg to his life among the émigré community in Southern California, Prof. van den Toorn shows how the composer’s music was tied to his personality and how it came to influence artists from Aaron Copland to Philip Glass.

Designed for classical music beginners, as well as those who want to know more about one of the great musical innovators, Simply Stravinsky is an insightful and highly readable portrait of the man who helped define modern music.

About the author

Pieter van den Toorn is Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he taught from 1990 to 2016. He is the author of The Music of Igor Stravinsky (1983), Stravinsky and The Rite of Spring (1987), Music, Politics, and the Academy (1995), and, with John McGinness, Stravinsky and the Russian Period (2012). Professor van den Toorn is a former student of the French musician and pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, for many years one of Stravinsky’s closest colleagues and associates.

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