Auden, Aldous Huxley and other Makers of the twentieth century, also provide a fascinating contribution to the intellectual and cultural history of our era. For me the big turning point was recognizing the chronology of the music, so you can actually get in a composer's head. Don't be daunted by the formidable 544 pages. These often have an immediacy not possible for a more detached author. They are all composed with a Stravinsky accent and emerge from a belief in strict rules, abstract order, aesthetic bliss.
No sooner have we accepted this harsh immersion in a modern idiom than the brass fanfares from the beginning magically slip back and restore tonality. If you learn to hear the way an audience at the time heard, you'll find all of this stuff incredibly exciting. One day he, Vera and Craft were driving through the Mojave Desert when Stravinsky, utterly uncharacteristically, broke down and wept: He was finished as a composer, he said; the Rake would be his last work. Soon after the Symphony in Three Movements came the compact, brilliant Ebony Concerto for clarinet and jazz band, in which neoclassicism, though perhaps in fancy dress, affirmed its capacity to stylise the present as well as the past. When Beethoven's Eroica symphony was premiered, for example, its sheer scale was so immense as to baffle listeners of the time. There's a long review of Richard Taruskin's books on Stravinsky, and one of Stephen Walsh's.
Its essential character would come over better as speech rather than in print. Robert Craft met Stravinsky by invitation in 1948, after nearly four years of letter correspondence with the composer. Never had a sonata development been nearly so long. But after his portrayal in this biography, Craft regards Walsh as an enemy. The new collection begins, however, with eight essays on Schoenberg. Then there is the mystifying role of Russia, where the Stravinsky archives were so long inaccessible, and whose formative influence he sought early on to minimise. In 1950 the young conductor sought instruction from Schoenberg in the performance of his music, and maintained a friendship with him that became increasingly cordial until the week of the composer's death a year later.
Craft's travel diaries, forming the final part of this book, focus on Italy, Seville and Cambodia; they are similarly insightful, colourful and edifying. Whoever holds the higher ground gets to affect the story as it will be told, so it's no wonder that feelings run high. One does not look for intensities of the Beethoven adagio type in this music, though one finds a plangent sweetness — in the inner movements of the Violin Concerto, or diffused throughout the ballet Apollo — that is a Stravinskyan equivalent. Naxos doesn't need to compete with the serious academic press, so the market for this book is the more casual, general reader, who probably would enjoy the material in it more if it reinforced the charming, anecdotal character of the writing. What would have been engaging to an audience at the time, though, was the way Beethoven plays with form. The style could not be taken further, and for a time Stravinsky did not know what to do.
The lure of it led him away from composition and into conducting. It was this close association that steered Craft into a stimulating world of leading composers, writers and artists. Indeed, it's authoritative in many ways - the chapters on Petroushka are fascinating, for example. At virtually the same time that he became a member of the Stravinsky household, Craft, aged twenty-four, discovered the 'path of wonder' created by Arnold Schoenberg. His role as intellectual catalyst, encourager and amanuensis was as indispensable as it is exceptional in musical history. Crafts musical observations are pertinent and witty, and it is music that underpins this collection of memoirs. First off, I should just say you seem awesome.
It is only the music that matters. It may use up a lot of paper, but that's probably a boon for those who find large print formats easier on the eye. Moreover, there probably is a large market for books that look impressive on the shelf, whatever their actual content. There are a bunch of secrets to listening to classical music. The descent into Mavra, the Pergolesi rifacimenti, the Tchaikovsky anthology, the titivated echoes of opera composers in Jeu de cartes and the other gaietés parisiennes: surely such a bizarre métamorphose must have some other explanation besides money? He actually enjoyed typing … In late evenings, when both of us were working at the same time, he composing in his studio, I struggling with words in the adjoining library room, he would ask, retiring early and passing through my room, if I had anything he could type for me. However, his descriptions of Stravinskys collaborator-friends, such as George Balanchine, T.
That's also important because this is very much a personal memoir of experiences from his unique vantage point. This book matters because it's Craft's personal take on events, and as source material, it's unique. It's an easy and pleasant read. The intention was to say that they never met during their sojourn in Hollywood. Down a Path of Wonder is a unique and truly compelling perspective on the post-Second World War artistic world and beyond.
That fear and insecurity lay behind many of his aesthetic and indeed social attitudes can hardly be gainsaid. One really can't expect the intense insight or knowledge of, say, Robert Fisk on Lebanon, or Bernard Fall on Vietnam, but it's good to read anything that advances awareness about a country that's almost a paradigm for human suffering. It would also have been useful if the source of each chapter were given, so it can be understood in context. As an exile who had lost his native sources of income and was permanently anxious about money he had numerous family members to support , Stravinsky was at once absolutist about the autonomy of music and absolutely businesslike about it. At virually the same time that he became a member of the Stravinsky household, Craft, age 24, discovered the 'path of wonder' created by Arnold Schoenberg.
Good sense is what the job demanded. Stravinsky had not recognised him, though they had met before. We welcome feedback on our reviews. He seems to be claiming a place in the mainstream of tradition, but if Stravinsky has a Beethovenian centrality it is not because he is actually like Beethoven. And the good news here is that audiences at the time didn't for the most part take music classes or go out of their way to educate themselves on the subject.