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June 17, 2009

A birthday salute to Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky, one of the greatest -- many would say the greatest -- composer of the 20th century, was born 127 years ago, June 17, 1882.

To mark the occasion, here are two musical salutes (thanks again, YouTube). First up, video of Stravinsky conducting the conclusion of his Firebird at the age of 82, filmed in London in 1965. It's a sensational performance, if you ask me. Note the wonderfully clipped chords in the coda, just to mention one distinctive element. After that ... 

an audio-only clip of the Kyrie from his Mass.


Posted by Tim Smith at 1:27 PM | | Comments (5)


OMG!! i totally just found out that this dude is related to me!! how cool!

I am so impressed with this orchestrated piece called Firebird. I'm really not into much classical pieces but this one was just fabulous or it might have had so much impact on me because of an 82 year old individual who directs his creation with such passion and vim. Good selection.

I'm very glad you liked it. I agree that the combination of the fabulous music and the composer conducting it is really something. TIM

My very _first_ CD boxed-set (22 discs) was the Sony edition of Stravinsky conducting his own works (with the exception of a few performances led by Robert Craft). I bought this soon after hearing the finale to "Firebird" at the opening of the progressive-rock band Yes' live album, "Yesshows" (Stravinsky's music practically upstaged the album for me). I found him to be fascinating then, though I later tended to find better performances of many of his best pieces. (Stravinsky may have had his own ideas about his works, but I often think "Daddy didn't know best" in his case.)

Like a true Gemini (couldn't resist ;^), he dabbled in all kinds of music over his lifetime. I think the quality (or at least "enjoyability") of his music suffered over time due to this dabbling, _especially_ when he entered his late "serial" phase (he did it well, but so what?). I'm just sorry that the man who wrote "Rite of Spring" and "Firebird" in his 20s/30s couldn't carry the same magic into his 60s or even 80s. Even his "neoclassical" works (e.g., "Rake's Progress" and a number of chamber-orchestra pieces) are interesting but not ultimately satisfying to me.

Google paid tribute to him with a Firebird "Google Doodle" for his birthday this year!

I noticed that Google salute, too. Very cool. As for his later works, I'd say they're often underrated. TIM

omg bs

Me too!

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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