Stravinsky’s good luck seemed to have run out.
His early successes had faded and he sat broke in a tiny apartment in Paris.
The composer of the legendary ballet, The Rite of Spring, was a small, awkward man.
He looked, to some, like a gnome.
Stravinsky was an iconoclast who obeyed no rules other than those he set down in his music, and was an innovator in countless musical ways, in addition to being one of the greatest twentieth century composers.
But all his early success (1900) at ballet faded slowly away, and Stravinsky was left with mounting debts, feeling all but forgotten in the Paris of the 20s. His friend, the great pianist Artur Rubinstein, saw his plight, and tried to help the brilliant and famed but broke composer.
Suddenly Artur had a brainstorm! “Write a piece that you can go out and play or conduct, then you will get a fee as the performer. Be a conductor!”
Stravinsky was delighted at the idea, but somewhat skeptical.
“Do you think I could do it?” bubbled the usually dry Igor, lighting his eighty-fourth Gitane of the day.
“I know you can,” returned the suave, world-weary Rubinstein, straightening his diamond cameo cuff links. “You just need a vehicle to charge a fee.”
So Igor hid away and months later came up with a savage piano concerto. It was brilliant and immediately got him conducting jobs. Which led to other jobs until he got a deal with Columbia Records. All his profitable work was as a conductor and personality. Stravinsky became a darling of CBS that the news agencies loved to feature.
And hence the modern post-Rite career of the great master Stravinsky was based on a casual conversation with the great piano virtuoso Artur Rubinstein.
Rubinstein’s generosity to other musicians is legendary. Witness the case of Hector Villa Lobos, whom Rubinstein solely raised to international status on the basis of Villa Lobos’ unique melodic quality.
Rubinstein prospered but just as grandly gave to those musicians he loved.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press