Igor Stravinsky was a huge proponent of Neoclassicism in music—much to the shock and dismay of some listeners and critics. Take a minute to get the scoop!
Listen to: Igor Stravinsky - Octet for Wind Instruments [With score] ℅ YouTube
A pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov in his native St. Petersburg, Stravinsky had inherited the style of the Russian nationalist group, the so-called kuchka or Mighty Handful, and the ballets he wrote for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes before and during the First World War – The Firebird, Petrushka, The Rite of Spring, and Les Noces – are post-kuchka works, based on folk tales or rituals, using folk music or poetry, and largely ignoring the orthodox procedures of traditional classical music.
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Igor Stravinsky was a huge proponent of Neoclassicism in music.
Examples include Oedipus Rex, derived from Greek tragedy but with Handelian and Verdian arias. His opera The Rake’s Progress, based on The Beggar’s Opera with a touch of Mozartian flair.
But it was his Octet for wind instruments that truly represents this aesthetic form. The Octet presents a three-movement chamber work in the manner of an 18th-century divertimento; there are touches of Bach and Haydn and a hint of sonata form.
But not everyone was a fan. Aaron Copland witnessed the world premiere in Paris, and reported his dismay at the abrupt, inexplicable turn away from Stravinsky's well-established neo-primitivist Russian style, to what appeared to everyone as "a mess of 18th-century mannerisms".
But Stravinsky had embarked on a new era reverting to the forms and textures of the pre-Romantic era.