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I.F. Stravinsky: A Reluctant Disciple?

Event information

START DATE 20 January 2015
START TIME 06:15pm

Middlesex University Concert Room, Grove B building, The Burroughs, Hendon, London, NW4 4BT

Dr Graham Griffiths of City University hosts the first colloquium of 2015

Following Rimsky-Korsakov's advice, Stravinsky famously never studied at the St Petersburg Conservatoire. Yet, paradoxically, he constantly sourced the Conservatoire's pianistic and constructive methodologies throughout his creative life. 

This short colloquium will focus upon two Conservatoire 'icons' who were central to Stravinsky's musical formation.

Firstly, of course, his esteemed guide to the principles of Instrumentation, his 'dear Nikolay Andreyevych'. Secondly, and arguably of comparable influence, Stravinsky's piano teacher Leokadiya Aleksandrovna Kashperova (1872-1940) who was one of Anton Rubinstein's last, and most brilliant, pupils. 

Yet, it is an irony that, having left Russia to forge his career as 'a phenomenon without a past', Stravinsky either ignored or, worse, denounced the vital contribution to his compositional practice of these two notable musicians, whose influence can be observed most clearly in Stravinsky's neoclassical works and philosophy. 

In order to explore this theme Dr Griffiths presents manuscript evidence from the Stravinsky archive of the Paul Sacher Stiftung at the University of Basel, Switzerland. 

This will include the composer's seminal sketches for the Concerto for piano and wind instruments (1923), Sonate pour piano (1924), Symphony of Psalms (1930), Symphony in Three Movements (1945) and Movements for piano and orchestra(1959). 

Such material strongly suggests that Stravinsky derived his compositional procedures in these works from a 'pianistic attitude'  – which Griffiths terms pal'tserazvitiye ('finger-development') – firmly rooted in the uniquely constructive method which had been introduced to St Petersburg several decades earlier by Theodor Leschetizky, founder of the Conservatoire's celebrated piano department. 

In summary, consideration will be given to Stravinsky's carefully constructed international persona – as musical craftsman and defender of 'objectivity' – and whether his submission to 'Apollo's demands' was sustained, all the while, by impulses set in motion by his erstwhile mentors: L.A. Kashperova and N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov. 

Furthermore, those Russian traditions we perceive as having nourished music's Modernism might also need to be reconsidered to accommodate these two contrasting, yet equally remarkable pedagogues  – and their 'neglected impact' upon Stravinsky's neoclassical re-invention.  

GRAHAM GRIFFITHS is currently Visiting Research Fellow at City University London; and is the author of Stravinsky's Piano: Genesis of a Musical Language (Cambridge University Press, 2013). He studied musicology at Edinburgh University and music education at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, obtaining his DPhil. (Musicology) at Christ Church, Oxford in 2008. Between 1989 and 1999 he directed the contemporary music ensemble Grupo Novo Horizonte de Sao Paulo and guest-lectured at Brazilian and Danish universities. His article 'Fingering as Compositional Process:Stravinsky's Piano Sonata Sketchbook Revisited' was published by British Postgraduate Musicology Online in 2005. Griffiths has delivered courses at the universities of Bath ('Stravinsky's Spain'), Bristol ('Performance'), Canterbury Christ Church ('Music Since 1900'), and Oxford ('Stravinsky and the Twentieth Century'). His affiliation with City University London dates from2010 ('Stravinsky'; 'Neoclassicism as Musical Progress'); he was appointed Lecturer in Musicology in 2013.

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