Robert Craft, Stravinsky expert, conductor and author, has died

Guest Mon 16th November 2015

Born October 20, 1923; died November 10, 2015

Robert Craft with Igor Stravinsky and the score of The Flood in 1962 (Photo: Getty Images)

Robert Craft with Igor Stravinsky and the score of The Flood in 1962 (Photo: Getty Images)

Robert Craft, whose name is inextricably linked to that of Igor Stravinsky, has died aged 92. Born in New York where he studied at Juilliard, Craft was a gifted musician and, despite having his education interrupted by army service, was soon studying conducting at Tanglewood with Pierre Monteux. His particular interests were early music (Gesualdo and Monteverdi being particular favourites) and 12-tone music (he would later not only introduce Stravinsky to the music of Schoenberg but would record most of Schoenberg's major works).

Craft first encountered Stravinsky in 1947 when he wrote to the composer to borrow a score for a forthcoming performance of the Symphonies of Wind Instruments - Stravinsky replied that he'd like to conduct the work himself. Soon Craft was drawn into the Stravinskys' life, and household, where he'd remain until the composer's death in 1971. He would be involved in all of Stravinsky's works from the early 1950s onwards, helping with every detail from orchestration and transcription into manuscript for publication, conducting and recording.

For many people, it was the series of books that Craft wrote, drawing on conversations with Stravinsky, that brought his name into contact with a large audience. After Stravinsky's death, Craft continued to write, drawing not only his long relationship with the composer but also recalling the many people he'd encountered down the years from TS Eliot and WH Auden to George Balanchine. He was an engaging and lively writer.

Craft's greatest influence on Stravinsky's music derived from his deep knowledge and sympathy for the music of the Second Viennese School, an interest he passed to Stravinsky which would result in works like Agon, Abraham and Isaac and perhaps the masterpiece of the late works, the Requiem Canticles.

His recorded legacy includes early music for CBS (now Sony Classical), and editions of he music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Webern for Naxos. 

 

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