This, the second and final volume of Stephen Walsh’s magisterial biography of Igor Stravinsky, begins in 1934, when Stravinsky is fifty-two and living in France. Already regarded by many as the most important composer of his generation, Stravinsky is nevertheless at this point a fairly unhappy expatriate, all too aware of the war clouds beginning to gather. Though he still maintains a family life with his wife and children, much of his time is spent with his mistress, Vera Sudeykina, while traveling around Europe giving concerts in order to earn the money to support his dependents–which include a number of relatives. Composing, of course, remains the center of his existence. But changes are imminent: within only a few years his wife, Katya, will be dead, his family scattered, and Stravinsky himself, together with Vera, starting over again in America.
Stravinsky: The Second Exile follows the composer through the remainder of his long life, years during which he produces such masterworks as The Rake’s Progress and Symphony in C, and achieves a new level of fame as a conductor and raconteur in his own right. With a dazzling command of sources in several languages and a keen feeling for accuracy in situations where truth and falsehood have become blurred, Walsh traces and illuminates Stravinsky’s increasingly complex and often agonized family relationships along with his crucially important connection with his associate Robert Craft. Walsh is also, as a musicologist and critic, able to speak with knowledge and wit about Stravinsky’s work, expertly describing and assessing the composer’s musical journey from the neoclassicism of his late French and early American periods, through his early essays in serial technique, and on finally to the astonishing intricacies of his final compositions.
The first volume of this biography, Stravinsky: A Creative Spring, was received with glowing praise for its insight, narrative skills, and readability. The period covered here, beset as it is with myths and misconceptions, is handled with even greater authority.
Carefully weighed, eloquent, packed with rich and fascinating detail, it casts a brilliant new light on one of the greatest artists of our time.
From the Hardcover edition.