Tag Archives: Igor Stravinsky

2nd Igor Stravinsky home, Los Angeles

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Igor Stravinsky spent 28 years in Hollywood. I don’t know how that sounds to you, but it sounds like something out of science fiction to me. Especially when you consider that during his last years there, we almost, almost, almost shared the same sidewalk a time or two. I used to hang out on Sunset Boulevard a lot in the early 1970s. Stravinsky bailed out, moving to New York City, in 1969. Virtually the entire LA sojourn was spent on N. Wetherly Dr., just few hundred feet above Sunset. (N. Wetherly turns up off of Sunset just west of the Roxy Club.) Some time ago in this space I shared photos of Stravinsky’s first property at 1260 N. Wetherly. Today I share a few photos of his second address on this street at 1218 N. Wetherly. I think it’s interesting to note that Stravinsky lived in LA longer than in any other city.
Do you think of Stravinsky as an “LA composer”? I surely don’t. Just imagine it, Stravinsky’s driver Edwin Allen driving him home past the Whiskey A-Go-Go in the mid-1960s as Jim Morrison and the Doors are warming up. It doesn’t fit into my head.
It would appear that the great maestro moved into the house at 1218 N. Wetherly in 1963. In any case we know that he moved into his first house in LA in April 1940 and that he spent 23 years there. This would leave him six years at the home you see pictured in this space today.
He wrote several major works at 1218, including his four preludes to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, and his Requiem Canticles. It was at this home in 1965 that a film clip was made by CBS of Stravinsky playing part or parts of his The Rite of Spring.
It was here, also, that his health began to fail.
Stephen Walsh’s Stravinsky: The Second Exile: France and America, 1934-1971 contains a detailed chapter about the last days at this home. It pictures the composer as quite unwell, perhaps not even fully cognizant of what is going on around him. Meanwhile, his wife Vera apparently never took a particular liking to the new home, making her uncomfortable. “Now Vera was exhausted and depressed, hated Hollywood more than ever, and disliked the house as much as before,” Walsh writes.
Not sparing Angelenos’ ego, Walsh writes about the hurried departure from  N. Wetherly Dr., “…a move to New York was being planned. Europe had not worked out; Los Angeles, quite apart from its social and cultural desolation, was impossibly remote from the first-rate doctoring the composer needed.”
Obviously, Walsh is no fan of the Doors or even Buffalo Springfield, but, still, his attitude to LA would make Woody Allen sound like a fan. “Impossibly remote from first-rate doctoring”?
Whatever the case, here is what one eye-witness said about Stravinsky at that time, as reported by Walsh:
“…We did not expect the sight which faced us when we were admitted to his bedroom. He had lost so much weight that he seemed transparent. […] He looked like a ghost, his eyes so deeply sunk in a face which was but skin stretched on bones. Still, he found the strength to bless me in Russian with a sign of the cross over my chest. We left in a state of utter desolation.”

We glean a little more information about this residence from Neil Wentborn’s Stravinsky: The Illustrated Lives of the Great Composers. “…The Stravinskys moved house after 23 years at 1260 North Wetherly Drive. Their new home was in the same street – No. 1218, the house, until her death in 1959, of their old friend the Baroness Caherine d’Erlanger, a one-time backer of Diaghilev – but it was much better adapted to Stravinsky’s decreasing mobility. It also had more space than the old one, and the couple set about expanding it still further, adding bathrooms, a guest room and a swimming pool, and converting existing rooms into a library and a studio. It is indicative of the changes age and sickness had wrought in Stravinsky, however, that he found the move disorientating and never really settled in the new house.”
I was fortunate to get two shots of the house itself (pretty much the same shot from different distances) because the current residents’ gardener just happened to be watering and mowing as I arrived. As a result, both gates to the otherwise hermetically closed property were flung wide open.
I am not a paparazzi in fact or in spirit, and I must admit, I was disconcerted to be shooting my subject furtively while the gardener did his work and wondered what the hell I was up to. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t bring myself to actually step onto the inner driveway in order to get better shots – I didn’t feel it was proper.

 

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Ballets Russes at the Lyceum Theatre, London

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The critics ate the Ballets Russes alive when they opened for a short, “low-priced,” season in London at the Lyceum Theatre on 21 Wellington St. at the end of 1926. All kinds of stuff about them going pop (in the local lingua of the time, of course). They’d lost their moxie. They were pandering to the public. That kind of stuff. Oh, really? I’ll bet you’d have a hell of a time finding a critic who didn’t fawn on The Lion King, which opened at this same venue in 1999 and is still running today! So much for critics, so much for standards, so much for taste! In fact, when you walk around London’s West End, as I did a few months ago, and you see all those cotton candy musicals gumming up the city’s stages, you wonder how London’s reputation as a great theater center has survived. But that’s just an aside. I’m here to think about the Ballets Russes today.
The show that really caught in the London critics’ collective craw in 1926 was The Triumph of Neptune. It premiered Dec. 3, 1926, and was composed by Lord Berners, choreographed by George Balanchine. It was the first work that Diaghilev ever commissioned from a British composer. It was considered populist and folkloric and decidedly beneath the great Ballets Russes. Here is what the critic for The Nation wrote:
The excited giggles that greeted some of the more bizarre elements of the newer ballets betrayed a large sprinkling of a less highbrow audience. The season which opened at the Lyceum Theatre in November 1926 brought out an even motlier public, an enormous army of admirers, who make up an audience as unintelligent as any other, and apparently quite incapable of discriminating between one ballet and another.”
Oh, yes, where have I seen this before? If only the stupid public and the talentless artists would listen to us, the genius critics! But I keep digressing today…
Still, the razzes were not unanimous. In a friendly contemporary essay about the ballet, one scholar dug up something resembling a positive response and put it into context:
In fact Diaghilev was as attuned to trends as ever,” writes Anne Witchard in “Bedraggled Ballerinas on a Bus Back to Bow: The ‘Fairy Business’.” “It was a craze for mid-century Victoriana among London’s so-called Bright Young Things that persuaded him to commission the eccentric peer and composer Lord Berners and his friend Sacheverell Sitwell to create the ballet score and libretto. The Triumph of Neptune was a combination of surreal pastiche, camp sentiment, and fierce nostalgia, and it prompted the normally anti-Diaghilev Daily Express critic, Hannen Swaffer, to state: ‘We saw at the Lyceum last night the beginnings of a British ballet.’ This was not quite what Haskell had meant. Where Haskell was referring to the artistic credibility of English ballet dancing as a nascent phenomenon thanks to Russian intervention, what Swaffer saw in The Triumph of Neptune was the rediscovery of an already credible native tradition. The flamboyant dandy-aesthetes of the 1920s embraced a ‘High-coloured Victorian England’ as wholeheartedly as pre-war Bloomsbury had rejected it, and Diaghilev’s company offered ways of making aesthetic connections to that tradition.”

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The Triumph of Neptune was joined in rep by, among other titles, Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird and Constant Lambert’s Romeo and Juliet. This latter work premiered in Monte Carlo a few months before London, and received a bit of a scandalous reception in Paris after Monte Carlo, but before London. The Parisians, apparently always quick to complain (or quick to give Diaghilev the publicity he craved) were unhappy that the pair of lovers in this version are swept away to safety on a new-fangled airplane rather than can kill themselves in the finale. Here, in a review of a CD containing both The Triumph of Neptune and Romeo and Juliet, is a description of the ballet as it unfolded on stage:
This Romeo and Juliet is perhaps an irreverent treatment of Shakespeare’s tragedy, taking less than thirty-one minutes for performance.  The first tableaux is ‘In a ballet classroom,’ in which the two principal dancers fall in love while practicing for the performance.  The second tableaux is ‘At a rehearsal of scenes from Romeo and Juliet‘ in which the first meeting of the two lovers  is depicted in a Sinfonia (3:03), the duel between Romeo and Tybalt by a Toccata (2:33), the balcony scene by a Musette (2:42), the death of Juliet by an Adagietto (1:59), and a Finale (3:22) after which the leading dancers do not take their curtain call—they have eloped by aeroplane.”
Romeo was danced by Serge Lifar (Serhiy Lyfar in transliteration from his native Ukrainian); Juliet by Alice (Alisa) Nikitina. You can see them in a photo on Pinterest.
A third ballet that played with the other two was a new version of Stravinsky’s The Firebird. As Alexander Golovin’s sets and Leon (Lev) Bakst’s costumes to the famous 1910 production had been damaged beyond repair, Diaghilev had Natalya Goncharova create a new environment for the piece. (You can see a nice shot of her backdrop here.) According to The London Stage 1920-1929: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel, The Firebird opened Nov. 22, 1926, and played 10 times through Dec. 11. It used the original Michel Fokine (Mikhail Fokin) choreography, and starred Serge Lifar  as Ivan Tsarevich and Lydia Lopokova (Lidia Lopukhova) as the Firebird. Chatty birds even today tell us that Lopokova did not like working with Lifar, but she put on a game face and did it anyway.
There were apparently several other works that joined these main pieces during the London “low-priced” season. The fine AusStage website informs us that on Thursday, Nov. 25, the following combination of ballets and symphonic pieces opened: The Three-Cornered HatThe Firebird,  L’Apres Midi D’un Faune, and Prince Igor, plus the interludes of Largo by Gemignani (first performance in England), Jeux en Plein Air by Tailleferre (first performance in England) and Scherzo by Borodin.
Look at all that cheap, populist stuff! Right here at the Lyceum, November and December 1926.

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Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Walt Disney, Los Angeles

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Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) and Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) were three giants of Russian music in the 20th century. Their lives and professional paths snaked in and around each other in many different ways in many different countries of the world, although none of them ever became particularly close. Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff entered the same alien, but attractive, universe of Hollywood and Los Angeles as a result of Hitler’s rise in Germany. (Their shy dance in space and time began when Rachmaninoff’s family moved to St. Petersburg in 1882, the year of Stravinsky’s birth in that city.) Prokofiev seemed to move in an orbit farther from the other two. In fact, more or less as Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff were settling in Los Angeles, Prokofiev made his last visit there before returning to the Soviet Union. There is, however, one name that brings them all together, albeit briefly and abstractly. Today we look at a place that was a mutual point of interest for all three of the composers: Walt Disney’s home at 4053 Woking Way.
Prokofiev, as it turns out, is the closest of all three to this topic. He met with Disney in 1938 after having seen and loved the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). At this point the great filmmaker was already fast at work on Fantasia (eventually released in 1940), the animated feature film that would set the standard for its genre for decades to come. Prokofiev was one of those whose work he thought might suit his plans. As such, he invited the composer to his house for a chat. According to Harlow Robinson’s book Russians in Hollywood, Hollywood’s Russians: Biography of an Image, Prokofiev even left us a brief record of that visit:
It’s very warm here,” Prokofiev wrote back to his family in Russia, “I’ve forgotten what an overcoat is. and the trees are covered with oranges and pineapples. Most American films are made in Hollywood and they build whole houses, castles and even cities of cardboard for them. Today I went to a filming session. A big tall warehouse had been turned into the square of an old town and people galloped through it on horses. I have also been to the house of Mickey Mouse’s papa, that is, the man who first thought up the idea of sketching him.”
So there we have it – Prokofiev visiting this house, the home of Mickey Mouse’s father. But, in fact, there is much more to the story and fortunately Disney himself chose to tell some of it. Even though none of Prokofiev’s music made it into Fantasia, Disney was transfixed by one particular work – Peter and the Wolf. He would end up making a film of it in 1946, and it would be nearly as popular and famous as Fantasia. So memorable was the meeting of the two men, that Disney had himself recorded telling the story of how Prokofiev, who spoke no English, came and played for the host, who spoke no Russian. The piano at which Prokofiev sat and performed still remained in Disney’s house at the time of the recording, and the video begins with Disney himself playing a few bars from Peter and the Wolf on the famous keyboard.
I remember how his fingers flew over our battered old piano,” Disney says with a bit of a wistful smile, “how his face glistened with perspiration as he concentrated on the music. And all the time I could see pictures. I could see his lovely fantasy coming to life on the screen.”
It’s a wonderful video. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.
(And, while this has nothing to do with the meetings of these great men, I can’t refuse to direct you to one of my favorite recordings of Peter and the Wolf ever – done by my wife Oksana Mysina with the Russian National Wind Quartet. Consider this a bonus track.)

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So, in regards to Fantasia, Prokofiev fell by the wayside early. One can’t help but wonder if Disney already knew that he wanted to devote an entire film to Peter and the Wolf, choosing not to “dilute” it in a miscellany. Be that as it may, Fantasia was originally intended to include music by both Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky. But the road to success is long and winding. And, in fact, the final cut featured only an abridged version of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Stravinsky’s The Firebird was also discussed for possible inclusion at some point, but was finally abandoned. Both scenes worked up to Rachmaninoff compositions – “Troika” and Prelude in G Minor – either ended up on the cutting room floor or were set aside at an earlier stage.
If any of this caused any jealousy or friction between the two men, it doesn’t seem to have been recorded anywhere. Stravinsky was usually respectful of Rachmaninoff and his place in history, if also somewhat uninspired by his colleague’s more traditional approach to the art of music. Rachmaninoff over the decades wavered between skepticism and enthusiasm about Stravinsky. According to Keenan Reesor’s paper, “Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky in Los Angeles to 1943,” Rachmaninoff in 1918 “described Stravinsky ‘as a force to be reckoned with,’ noting that the early ballets ‘represented a high order of talent, if not genius.'” Stravinsky seems to have circled coolly around Rachmaninoff’s accomplishments with similar emotional reserve. According to Neeson:
In his only recorded assessment of Rachmaninoff’s music, published almost twenty years after the latter’s death, Stravinsky stopped short agreeing with those who said he didn’t like Rachmaninoff’s music but admitted that ‘it is true we composed very differently.’ Stravinsky described Rachmaninoff’s earliest pieces as ‘watercolors’ but said that ‘at twenty-five he turned to “oils” and became a very old composer. But,’ he continued, ‘do not expect me to denigrate him for that. In fact he was an awesome man, and there are too many others to be denigrated long before him. As I think about him, his silence looms as a noble contrast to the self-approbations that are the only conversation of most musicians. Besides, he was the only pianist I have ever seen who did not grimace when he played. That says a great deal.'”
Whatever the real feelings may have been between the two men, as recalled by Sergei Bertensson in Nicholas Slonimsky’s book Slonimsky’s Book of Musical Anecdotes, Rachmaninoff was an ardent fan of The Firebird.
I recall as we listened to the solemn and triumphant finale of The Firebird Rachmaninoff’s eyes filled with tears, and he exclaimed: ‘Great God! What a work of genius this is! This is true Russia.’ And when he was told that Stravinsky liked honey, he bought a large jar and personally took it in his car to Stravinsky’s house.”
I don’t know it for a fact, but I take pleasure in imagining that Rachmaninoff drove his beloved Cadillac over to Stravinsky’s house at North Wetherly Drive from his own place on Elm Drive. I have written about both of these places elsewhere in this space.
For those who appreciate tangents, playwright Frederick Stroppel wrote a play, Small World, about Stravinsky meeting Disney and hashing out their ideas over Fantasia. You can read about a 2015 production here.

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Nijinsky opens ‘Rite of Spring’ at Drury Lane, London

DSCN7240 DSCN7248Isn’t it the way? What the French called scandalous barely caused the Brits to wiggle and waggle their stiff upper lips. We are talking about Vaclav Nijinsky’s famous, legendary, incendiary, monumental ballet choreographed to Igor Stravinsky’s revolutionary and seminal 20th-century music – The Rite of Spring. Everybody and their uncle knows of the “riot” that occurred opening night in Paris on May 29, 1913. Whether or not there really was a riot is a different story, and it has been told many a time from many an angle.
Lydia Sokolova, one of the dancers on the stage that night, said the audience came prepared,” the BBC reports. ‘They had got themselves all ready. They didn’t even let the music be played for the overture. As soon as it was known that the conductor was there, the uproar began,’ she said in an interview recorded in 1965.”
Sergei Diaghilev, the impresario of the Ballets Russes, which put on the performance, is said to have been hankering for a scandal. What impresario isn’t? The BBC again: “‘He knew there was going to be trouble,’ said Lydia Sokolova, and there are some signs that he was hoping for a scandal. Announcing the Rite of Spring in the Parisian press, Diaghilev had suggested it would cause ‘impassioned debate.’ In so doing, Esteban Buch suggests, he was setting the scene ‘for maybe not a riot, but at least a controversy.’ He certainly got one.”
Stravinsky is on record as having said that the storm only broke after the overture, “when the curtain opened on the group of knock-kneed and long-braided Lolitas jumping up and down.”
According to a piece in The Arts Desk, “the newspapers dubbed it ‘Le Massacre du printemps.’ Diaghilev’s satisfied comment was, ‘Exactly what I wanted.’”
Whether or not 40 people were arrested that night will probably remain a point of contention at least until someone decides to research the police records for that night in the Champs Elysees precinct.
But let’s now leave Paris to Paris, for today, in fact, we wander the streets of the City of Westminster, where, a month later, the scandalous Rite of Spring was offered to the judgment of London’s theatergoers at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Following the six-day run in Paris in May-June 1913, the four-day London run opened July 11.
Today the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, like so many London houses, hosts one of those abominable, endlessly-running musicals. In this case, it’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, about which we couldn’t possibly care less. Do your best, when perusing the photos, to blot the Charlie marquees out in your mind. It will be easier, and more pleasant, to imagine Diaghilev, Sokolova, Nijinsky and company perhaps nervously arriving at the theater and furtively entering by way of the stage door on Russell Street. Imagine crowds of excited ticket holders gathering outside the front of the theater, waiting for the doors to open so that they could take their seats and get a glimpse for themselves of this dastardly ballet…

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Except that it appears London didn’t see anything dastardly at all. Here, as quoted in a book called Confronting Stravinsky: Man, Musician and Modernist, is what Henry Cope Colles, the music critic for The Times of London, had to say:
The functions of the composer and the producer are so balanced that it is possible to see every movement on the stage and at the same time to hear every note of the music. But the fusion goes deeper than this. The combination of the two elements of music and dancing does actually produce a new compound result, expressible in terms of rhythm – much as the combination of oxygen and hydrogen produces a totally different compound, water.”
Damn! “Balanced!” “Fusion!” “New compound result!”
Where are the flying tomatoes? The razzes? The fights and the arrests?
I would like to point out, by the way, that this review appeared in the Times the next morning after the London premiere. That is, Colles winged this – he hurried from the theater to wherever he was wont to write, and he filed this story on short deadline in order to make the morning’s papers. And look at that clarity of thought, the insight, the ability to make sense of what we now know was something absolutely, entirely new. Folks, I’m impressed. My hat’s off to Henry Cope Colles, my new hero.
On the occasion of the work’s 100th anniversary in 2013, James S. Murphy, seeking to debunk the old tale about a riotous premiere, discussed the London premiere  in the Paris Review:
When the Times of London reviewed the British premier (sic), it declared in the first sentence, ‘London takes both its pleasures and its pains more quietly than Paris.’ The review notes that ‘the applause was measured, but so were the cries of disapproval.’ The Rite went off without any major incident, as it had done in the four subsequent performances in Paris after the premiere. This is worth remembering, particularly since the anniversary has provided the occasion for several critics to indulge a nostalgia for the good old days of repression, when art could still shock. An essay in the New York Times this year by the eminent Stravinsky scholar Richard Taruskin captured this consternation perfectly in its headline: ‘Shocker Cools into a Rite of Passage.’ While several people have pointed to Walt Disney’s cooptation of Stravinsky’s music for Fantasia in 1940 as the moment when the work officially lost its edge, reports on the subsequent performances in Paris and the reviews of the London premiere show that it did not take three decades—or even three years—for audiences to see past the shock and find the beauty in The Rite. It took a few weeks.
Murphy goes on:
“…The extent to which this [Paris first-night] disturbance counts as a riot really is beside the point, as is the question of what actually happened that night. What matters most is that whatever it was, it never happened again. Not once. Some small disturbances were reported at the second performance four days later, but nothing of note occurred at the final two performances of the ballet in Paris. A report on the third performance in London speculated that the English audience ‘is either surprisingly quick or surprisingly careless in accommodating ourselves to new forms of art. The first performance of [The Rite] evoked something like a hostile demonstration from a section of the audience. The third and last performance [my understanding is that there were four] was received with scarcely a sign of opposition.’ That the scandal of France could be accommodated so quickly by an English audience bewildered the reviewer and has continues (sic) to bedevil many lovers of the work.”
Fascinating stuff, I say. If you’re interested in the reasons for, and the background of, this story, start your search with the sources I have quoted. There is good information to be had. But my purpose is not to dot the last “i” in this tale, but rather, simply, to take the time to walk around the walls of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and to take the time to think about what it might have been like that opening night in London in the summer of 1913. How might it have felt, how might it have looked and sounded. Apart from the vile Charlie marquees (and that moronic quote of some critic who shall never deserve to share his profession with H.C. Colles [“Dazzling Charlie is Choc-Full of Delights!!!!!!!”]) this structure affords us a nice opportunity to do that. It appears to have changed little in the 100+ years since Nijinsky, Diaghilev and Stravinsky stormed into London to play The Right of Spring.
One more tidbit: The four London performances were the last ever of the original Nijinsky choreography. Shortly thereafter, Nijinsky ran off and married Romola de Pulszky, infuriating, and breaking the heart of, Diaghilev beyond measure. As such, this theater here marks the end of the “scandalous” first performances of The Rite of Spring, as well as the end of the storied collaboration between Diaghilev and Nijinsky.

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Igor Stravinsky home, Los Angeles

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IMG_7462.jpg2Some topics I write about in this space require my digging deep to come up with a narrative thread. That will be no problem today. My only problem will be keeping the length of this text somewhere under that of the first two volumes of War and Peace (which runs four volumes in Russian).
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) lived a very public life in Los Angeles, for approximately 20 years at 1260 N. Wetherly Dr. (featured here today), and then for another nine years or so at 1218 N. Wetherly Dr. He was a star when he arrived in 1940 and his star did not wane until – well, in fact, it never has.
Thanks to Eric Walter White’s Stravinsky: The Composer and His Works, we know precisely when Stravinsky arrived in L.A. and where he lived. I fully quote the first footnote on page 93: “At 124 South Swall Drive, Beverly Hills, May-November 1940; Chateau Marmont, Hollywood, March-April 1941; and North Wetherly Drive, Hollywood, after that.” Stravinsky left Los Angeles (West Hollywood) in 1969 for New York where he died two years later. I know some Angelenos who would consider that a warning to the rest of us… For the record, Stravinsky was a resident at the Essex House for his two-year New York stay.
Stravinsky arrived in the U.S. from Europe in September 1939, pushed by the early conflagration of WWII. In Dec. 1939 he traveled briefly to CA to conduct two concerts in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He returned to NY to meet the ship on which his longtime mistress Vera de Bosset (formerly the wife of the great Russian painter Sergei Sudeikin) would arrive from Europe. He married Vera on March 9, 1940, in Massachusetts. Shortly after, on April 15, 1940, the composer was arrested in Boston (“Banned in Boston”) for the horrific offense of rearranging the score of the Star-Spangled Banner. According to a book called Igor Stravinsky: The Complete Guide, compiled by the Wikipedians, he employed a major seventh chord in his arrangement, thus violating a federal law against reharmonizing the national anthem.
That tidbit was news for me and brought to my mind a similar situation that I experienced as a child – Jose Feliciano performing his beautiful Latino-tinged version of the Star-Spangled Banner in Detroit in 1968, and setting off a storm of protest and anger from uptight America…
The time of Stravinsky’s move to the Left Coast was fortuitous for him. Walt Disney’s innovative and wildly popular Fantasia was just about to be released (that happened Nov. 13, 1940), and it, of course, included a powerful scene set to Stravinsky’s ground-breaking The Rite of Spring. If anyone in the States didn’t know who Stravinsky was at that moment, they surely would know soon. (However, see page 95 of White’s book to see how Disney strong-armed Stravinsky into giving him the rights to The Rite of Spring for a relative pittance because the work was not yet copyrighted in the U.S. According to Stravinsky: “The owners of the film wished to show it abroad, however, (i.e., in the Berne copyright countries), and they, therefore, offered me a sum of $5,000, a sum I was obliged to accept.“)

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The fact of the matter is that Stravinsky became a true celebrity in Hollywood. Mark Swed, the Los Angeles Times music critic, chronicles that extremely well in a 2011 blog. Swed, who himself studied music with Stravinsky at the composer’s home (presumably the later address, not the one shown here), tells of how Frank Zappa once wanted to do a version of The Rite of Spring with the Mothers of Invention. Elsewhere, we find that the late, great rocker Warren Zevon, a neighbor, also studied music with Stravinsky.
Indeed, this was, and has remained a neighborhood with genuine star quality. According to The Movieland Directory, other residents on Wetherly Dr. (at the time of Stravinsky’s residence and after he left) have included: Genevieve Bujold (1990s), Conan O’Brien (1990s), Troy Donahue (1960s), Cheryl Ladd (1990s), Suzanne Pleshette (1990s), Rita Coolidge (1990s), Tony Curtis (1960s) and Janet Leigh (1950s).
Bernard Holland ran a nice piece in the New York Times about Stravinsky’s Los Angeles years in 2001. Allow me to quote at length from that:

A curious pilgrim follows a colonnade of three-story palm trees along Doheny Drive, across frenetic Sunset Boulevard and up the narrow winding street to 1260 North Wetherly Drive. The Stravinsky house is small — white stucco and wood — on rising ground and sheltered by green growth around it. The interior, we are told, was artful clutter: the furniture was worn; the books were many. North Wetherly was the site of Stravinsky’s first sustained domestic happiness after the lingering illnesses and deaths of his first wife and his older daughter, and his subsequent marriage to Vera de Bosset Sudeikina in Bedford, Mass. Two of Stravinsky’s four children eventually came to America: Soulima, teaching piano at the University of Illinois, and Milene, settling in Los Angeles.
The Stravinsky friends were polyglot, international and many. There were the Russian and German enclaves, but also a detachment of British writers, like W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Dylan Thomas (who shared the composer’s taste for hard spirits) and, especially, Aldous Huxley, with whom Stravinsky spoke in French.
Years later, Mr. Salonen considered buying the house, which had fallen on hard times. The conductor noted the carpet indentations where the great man’s pianos had stood, the hook where a goat had been tethered (Stravinsky liked the milk) and the built-in couch where Thomas had slept off more than a few over indulgences. An aspiring composer himself, Mr. [Esa-Pekka] Salonen wisely feared the presence of ghosts.
[Conductor Otto] Klemperer and others performed Stravinsky’s pieces at the Philharmonic. The composer himself appeared as pianist and conductor. Even the gaping Hollywood Bowl embraced the Stravinsky of The Firebird. The publisher Boosey & Hawkes eventually provided him a comfortable annual retainer, and there were the constant tours and travels for a man less famous than Clark Gable but not too far behind.”

Allow me to quote from still another source, this one from L.A. blogger Patrick Swanson:

In the summer of 1946, Igor Stravinsky was a freshly naturalized citizen of the United States. A fit and healthy 64 years of age, he was happily settled with his second wife (painter Vera de Bosset) in a cozy house nestled at the foot of the Hollywood Hills. Stravinsky-worshipers who make the requisite pilgrimage to 1260 North Wetherly Drive are in for a surprise when they see that the house that bore so many hallowed masterpieces of 20th century music (Symphony in Three Movements, The Rake’s Progress, Agon) is mere yards away from that mecca of flashy dross known as the Sunset Strip. Does Stravinsky’s ghost ever haunt Ryan Seacrest? He could if he wanted to. To experience one of those surreal juxtapositions of which Los Angeles excels, go to the house on a Friday night and think of Stravinsky working out the haunting medievalisms of the Mass (1947) on his muffled upright; then, walk down the hill until you are in front of the Roxy Theatre, where the spray-tanned and spiky-haired gather to watch a DJ press the ‘play’ button on his iTunes.
    The Los Angeles that Stravinsky called home for over 20 years had its own absurdities. During the war, the city’s blend of endless sunshine and endless creative (and financial) opportunity proved attractive for hosts of European intellectuals and artists seeking safe haven from Hitler’s Europe. Many flocked to  Hollywood to work for the booming film studios (Erich Korngold); Stravinsky’s great rival, Arnold Schoenberg, who had his own flirtations with Hollywood, settled nearby (about 20 minutes west on Sunset) in Brentwood, just down the street from Shirley Temple. When he wasn’t playing with permutations of the 12-tone row, Schoenberg could be found playing ping-pong and tennis with Charlie Chaplin and George Gershwin. (Schoenberg and Stravinsky, however, made sure to avoid each other.) It must have been a dizzying place. Invited to a cocktail party at the Stravinskys? Start boning up-you are going to be talking hallucinogens with Aldous Huxley, the Nuremberg Trials with Thomas Mann, nuclear bombs with Bertrand Russell. Even with all the imported brains, the Stravinskys managed to live a relatively normal LA existence. Vera Stravinsky’s diary for January 21st, 1948: “Sunbathe, and I drive Igor in the hills to air out his hangover.”

Stravinsky’s home at 1260 Wetherly Dr., at least these days, is almost entirely hidden from view. I had to fight back my sense of propriety and my own disgust at the manners of paparazzi  in order to get a decent shot of the house over the thick, tall hedges protecting the building and yard. I forged ahead, however, overcoming my reticence, in order to serve the god of history and information. The first shot in the block immediately above gives a decent view of the house. If you’re interested in other pictures of this house (and of other physical sites connected to Stravinsky around the world), you can find some nice ones on Katya Chilingiri’s photo website.  The Igor Stravinsky Foundation Facebook page publishes a nice photo of the composer playing a game of solitaire right here at his Hollywood home.
This post has already gone on unconscionably long. But if you’re interested in the topic I must also direct you to a nice tale of the relationship between Stravinsky and Aldous Huxley in Murray Pomeranoe’s Michelangelo Red Antonioni Blue: Eight Reflections on Cinema, and to a review of the film Stravinsky in Hollywood, which provides some great information on the composer’s work during his L.A. period.

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Igor Stravinsky Street Mural, Moscow

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I just heard about Zuk Club a couple of weeks ago. It was in passing and I didn’t quite get what it was all about. And then life took over and I forgot about it. That is until yesterday when I was out hunting down interesting places in my neighborhood. I was coming across Bolshaya Polyanka from First Khvostov Lane in the Yakimanka district south of the Moskva River and something simply grabbed my eyesight and yanked it in its direction. You see it above, it was a huge  portrait of Igor Stravinsky. Based on information on Zuk Club’s Facebook page this went up in mid-November, maybe on the 18th. I hadn’t seen it yet and its effect was enormous when I did. I almost burst out laughing. I didn’t want to move from my position in the middle of the street, even though cars were bearing down on me.
This is not the kind of thing you see in Moscow. Moscow has never been particularly whimsical, and street art of this kind is all about whimsy. Yekaterinburg has tons of street art – there are even walking tours you can take to see little gnomes drawn into decaying garages, short works of literature written into the crevices in walls, and murals painted on building sidings. On my street, Pyatnitskaya, there has long been a gorgeous, colorful fairy-tale-type tree painted on a building siding, but I’ve always treasured this especially because it was so one-of-a-kind. But, surprisingly enough, there occasionally are new things under both the sun and the the low, gray Moscow sky. It turns out that this Stravinsky mural is just one of many that in recent times have sprung up all over Moscow. There are already huge murals of Mikhail Bulgakov, Sergei Eisenstein, Alexander Scriabin, Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin and Sergei Rachmaninov and that isn’t a full list. I’ll have to get out and do some work on that, but for the time being the Stravinsky portrait at 33 Bolshaya Polyanka will suffice.

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Based on information from Zuk Club’s website, it would appear that the group has been in existence since 2011. It has done hundreds of murals and pieces of street art all over Russia and Europe. The Stravinsky and other such portraits in Moscow were mounted as part of the Best City on Earth program run by the Moscow Culture Committee with support from an organization called Novatek Art. There is a kind of revolving stable of artists who work on different projects including Kirill Stefanov, Artyom Stefanov,
Sergei Ovseikin, Maxim Malyarenko, Irina Zvidrina, Kirill Smirnov, Alexander Kochergin, Sergei Belikov, Alexander Okootin, Stepan Leshenko, Lisa Smirnova, Nikita Pavlov and Olya Shirokostup. I grabbed all these names from a virtual gallery on the Zuk Club site that shows 100 of the group’s projects done since May 2011.
Stravinsky (1882-1971) is a perfect portrait to have in my neighborhood. I consider myself rather challenged in my knowledge and appreciation of classical music. Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison saw to that. But I’m not a total rube – at least, not all of the time – and Stravinsky is one of the reasons for that. When I lived in Washington, D.C. – way-way-way-way-way-way back, as Van Morrison would sing it – I had a cassette tape of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale that I played in the car all the time. On the flip side was a recording of his Dumbarton Oaks concerto, which I loved no less. That particular piece always had especial meaning because the park at Dumbarton Oaks was located just a few blocks from where I worked and I would, on occasion, wander up there to dream on my lunch break. None of those dreams came true. At least they haven’t yet. Which doesn’t have any effect whatsoever on my affection for Stravinsky, and, perhaps, even enhances the attachment I feel to this portrait of him that has unexpectedly showed up in my neighborhood.

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