Stravinsky in Hollywood, Blu-ray (2014)

by | Aug 5, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Stravinsky in Hollywood, Blu-ray (2014)

Cast: Igor Stravinsky, Robert Craft, Walt Disney
Director: Marco Capalbo
Studio: WDR/ Kultur/ Arte/ C Major Entertainment 716404 [6/24/14] (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 16:9 1080i HD color
Audio: English or German PCM stereo
Extras: Trailers to other C Major titles
Length: 54 minutes
Rating: *****

The most amazing thing about this documentary was all the footage that exists of Stravinsky—of himself at his home in Hollywood where he lived for three decades, and elsewhere traveling. After all, he was living in the movie capital of the world. He was quite proud of his physique, in spite of having had TB at one earlier point (of which both his first wife and daughter had died). He liked to do headstands near his pool. There is also footage that is supposed to be Robert Craft driving Stravinsky around the desert in Craft’s convertible, but just created for the documentary with actors.

Hollywood wouldn’t be the first place we think of when we consider Stravinsky, but the fact is he moved there along with many other European composers and artists before WW II, and lived there with his second wife and former mistress Vera. The use of his Rite of Spring music by Walt Disney in Fantasia is what originally drew him there (he got $6000 for it), but he was shocked at how Disney had cut up the music and matched it to some “childish animation.”

Stravinsky later wrote music for various other Hollywood films, none of which was used in the final films, partly due to his attitude that they were not allowed to change a single note of what he had written. He later used some music in abstract works such as his Symphony in Three Movements. He was not willing to change his music to please Hollywood directors. In 1942 he wrote his famous Circus Polka for the fifty elephants of the Ringling Bros. Circus. At the same time Craft was working with Arnold Schoenberg, who was another composer on the same level as Stravinsky in LA, but they disliked one another and had nothing to do with each other. Rachmaninoff also lived in the area.

Yet after the death of Schoenberg and a period of not composing, Stravinsky said he may have mis-judged the German composer and at the encouragement of Craft he began writing serial music of his own which is considered by some critics some of his best work (not by me). He also began a thorough study of the works of Webern and eventually Craft recorded all the dodecaphonic composer’s works. He became increasingly interested in the Russian Orthodox Church and this showed up in several liturgical works. Stravinsky is portrayed as a fanatic for order, in his music and all his surroundings. The comments of Robert Craft are especially interesting. A most elucidating documentary on the Russian master.

—John Sunier

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