February 23, 2004

Music Festival Celebrates Stravinsky

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Now through Feb. 28, the Music Department will be celebrating the work of eminent twentieth century composer Igor Stravinsky with several special events, including lectures, concerts and even puppet shows. Prof. Xak Bjerken, music and director of The Stravinsky Project hopes that the festival will capture the many aspects of Stravinsky’s colorful personality.

“He has many sides to his character — there’s a religious side, there’s a very humorous side, and there’s a serious side,” he said.

The 20th century Russian composer was known for his innovative style. His work is believed to have helped define modern music.

“A lot of groups, both classical and non-classical, took a lot of influence from his music,” Bjerken said. “He was a real revolutionary for his time.”

Stravinsky was also recognized for his versatility. He composed several operas and ballets, as well as chamber and orchestral music. His versatility was also apparent in his varying styles and techniques, and his innovative use of rhythm.

“Some of his music is extremely powerful and rhythmically driven, and has a kind of raw energy, and some of it is very refined,” Bjerken explained. “This isn’t stodgy, conservative classical music — this is a very progressive, very exciting kind of music.”

Stravinsky’s music was influenced by the political upheaval of his native Russia, as well as the wars and social change of the early 1900’s. His diverse style was shaped partly by his wide range of experience. Stravinsky was born in Russia, but spent much of his life living in Switzerland, France and the United States.

Music enthusiasts have already enjoyed last week’s performances of Stravinsky’s music and lectures about his music and his personal life. According to Bjerken, The Stravinsky Project was organized for no other reason than to celebrate the life and music of Igor Stravinsky, and to expose Cornellians and members of the community to his work.

“It was an opportunity that I don’t normally have to enjoy the music of Stravinsky here at Cornell,” said Madlin Kluger ’06, who attended some of this past week’s events. “Stravinsky’s music is an important part of culture which many people don’t usually have access to– it’s not very common in Ithaca to have an opportunity to experience his music live.”

Other events planned for later this week include performances from Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments and The Rite of Spring this Thursday at Sage Chapel, and a performance of A Soldier’s Tale with marionettes, which is being presented on both Friday and Saturday. All of those performances are free and open to the public. On Saturday evening, the festival will conclude with a Cornell Concert Series production featuring Russian tenor Daniil Shtoda and pianist Larissa Gergieva. Admission will be charged for that event, which will be held at the State Theater.

Archived article by Andrew Beckwith