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Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works Through Mavra [Hardcover]

Richard Taruskin
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Feb 1999
This book undoes 50 years of mythmaking about Stravinsky's life in music. During his spectacular career, Igor Stravinsky underplayed his Russian past in favor of a European cosmopolitanism. Richard Taruskin has refused to take the composer at his word. In this long-awaited study, he defines Stravinsky's relationship to the musical and artistic traditions of his native land and gives us a dramatically new picture of one of the major figures in the history of music. Taruskin draws directly on newly accessible archives and on a wealth of Russian documents. In Volume One, he sets the historical scene: the St. Petersburg musical press, the arts journals, and the writings of anthropologists, folklorists, philosophers, and poets. Volume Two addresses the masterpieces of Stravinsky's early maturity - "Petrushka", "The Rite of Spring", and "Les Noces". Taruskin investigates the composer's collaborations with Diaghilev to illuminate the relationship between folklore and modernity. He elucidates the Silver Age ideal of 'neonationalism' - the professional appropriation of motifs and style characteristics from folk art - and how Stravinsky realized this ideal in his music. Taruskin demonstrates how Stravinsky achieved his modernist technique by combining what was most characteristically Russian in his musical training with stylistic elements abstracted from Russian folklore. The stylistic synthesis thus achieved formed Stravinsky as a composer for life, whatever the aesthetic allegiances he later professed. Written with Taruskin's characteristic mixture of in-depth research and stylistic verve, this book will be mandatory reading for all those seriously interested in the life and work of Stravinsky.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 1800 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (24 Feb 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520070992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520070998
  • Product Dimensions: 26.2 x 18.1 x 6.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,520,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A monumental two-volume study."--"New Yorker

About the Author

Richard Taruskin is Professor of Music at the University of California at Berkeley. His most recent books are Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue (1993) and Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance (1995).

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Igor Stravinsky was born in a jubilee year for Russian music. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Detail 1 July 2010
By s
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The most detailed book on Stravinsky's early, nationalistic and neo-classical works. This is a must for any Stravinsky fan, it also has a facsimilie copy of Stravinsky's the Storm cloud from 1902.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than a book about Stravinsky 24 Feb 2008
Format:Hardcover
This 2 volume work is possibly Taruskin's greatest work (forget about his multi-volume work on Western Music!). It combines the most wide-ranging scholarly research into Russian music (not just directly to do with Stravinsky) from the late nineteenth century up to Stravinsky's Mavra (composed 1922) with a very engaging and readable style. On the way we learn a great deal about the final years of Balakirev's 'mighty little heap' (or Kuchka) and Rimsky-Korsakov's uneasy relationship both with his former mentor and his friendly rival Tchaikovsky. About Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, including as close to the real story as we'll probably ever get to how Stravinsky came to get that watershed commission to write The Firebird. About the avant-garde in St Petersburg, and about several lesser-known but fascinating composers as Steinberg and Gnessin.

I've lived with this massive work for close on ten years now, and I still find it a fascinating treasure trove which I'm still in the process of learning from. In short, this is an essential book for anyone who has any interest in what happened between the hey-day of the likes of Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Musorgsky and Balakirev, and the rise of Prokofiev and Stravinsky.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading 11 May 2001
By Bernard Hughes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is an extraordinary book which will re-define Stravinsky scholarship. It is by far the best book published on Stravinsky, with perhaps one exception (The Apollonian Clockwork by Andriessen and Schoenberger). Taruskin's scholarship is of the highest quality, his knowledge of Russian music awe-inspiring, and the revelations he uncovers simply by being a Russian-speaker investigating the sources first-hand make this book a watershed in the way we think about Stravinsky. This book only takes the story to 1923 - I can only hope Mr Taruskin is working on the next volume as I write.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars debunking the myth 28 Mar 2000
By slightlykooky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Taruskin's 2 volume set into Stravinsky's "Russian" period is still the MOST comprehensive investigation for those wanting a more discernible picture of the gestation of works from that period, including the Firebird, Petrushka, the Rite and Les Noces. For example Taruskin compares wedding laments used by Russian brides with those found in the opening of Les Noces. This link becomes significant when one is trying to resolve how much Stravinsky knew about his Russian heritage during the composition of these works. In his conversation books with Robert Craft, several inconsistencies emerge as to the influence of Russian music on Stravinsky's own music. For an interesting read, check out Taruskin's article, "Stravinsky and the traditions: Why the memory hole?" in Opus Magazine 1987. Getting back to the books, of particular significance is a "thematic" catalog of folk materials in which Taruskin attempts to reconstruct the origins of Stravinsky's Russian masterpieces.
I did not give the book 5 stars because I reserve that for the rarest of rarities which are reserved for books/movies/cds which provoke thought in the most unexpected of ways and are unlike anything else like the movie "Being John Malkovich". Another insightful and recent book on early Stravinsky (purely biographical) is Stephen Walsh's "Stravinsky : A Creative Spring : Russia and France, 1882-1934".
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On shaky ground 25 Aug 2008
By Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"The Rite of Spring" is a work of a Russian composer on a Russian sujet. But that a serious musicologist tries to tell me that, due to a few vague allusions to traditional folk tunes, it is a pure product of the Russian musical tradition. Please!

No doubt, it is work of genius, a great dark musical vision, but, conceding that in its spirit it is a "authentic" Russian composition, in its composing strategies it owes Debussy and Ravel much more than any Russian composer.

Frankly, I don't understand why Taruskin tries so hard to hide this vital influence on Stravinsky in this book. Though Stravinsky emancipated from these influences in later years, the impact on his early ballet music was tremendous. And Stravinsky was the last one to deny it.

Surely it is worth to discuss the influences in detail, since there are a lot of interferences. Debussy and Ravel themselves were strongly influenced by Russian composers like Mussorgsky and Borodin.

But to blind this part out of the composer biography is just not possible if you want to give a comprehensive picture. The plenty musical examples that Taruskin offers documenting the sources of Stravinsky's compositions are too selective in this respect. It might though be admitted that the impressionistic influences are harder to describe since they refer less to thematic references but much more to matters of technique. There would have been a great opportunity in these extensive volumes to look at all this in detail. Instead of this Taruskin simplifies things or makes awkward derivations. The bitonal Petrouschka chord-combination c major/f-sharp major for example happens to be already accidentally in Wagners "Siegfried" and happens even literally in the cadenza-like part of Ravel's "Jeux d'eau" where Stravinky most likely took his inspiration from. It's just strange and exerted to derive it from Rimsky's system of "octatonic" chord-combinations. Apropos "octatonic", even to claim this system, that Rimsky theoretically fixated for his teaching, as a Russian specific is strange enough, since it is well known that those harmonic influences came to Russian music through Berlioz, Liszt and especially Wagner.

Despite this serious objections, Taruskin deserves a lot of praise for his great research. I never read such a brilliant report about the history of Russian music between Glinka and Stravinsky and the circle around Diaghilev with all its paradoxes.

An enormously interesting book despite the fact that its main thesis, i.e. that Stravinsky is rooted mainly in the Russian tradition, stays on very shaky ground.
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