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Robert Craft

From Academic Kids

Robert Lawson Craft (born October 20, 1923) is an American conductor and writer on music best known for his intimate friendship with Igor Stravinsky, a relationship which has resulted in a number of recordings and books.

Craft was born in Kingston, New York and studied music at the Juilliard School. He became particularly interested in early music and the music of Claudio Monteverdi and Heinrich Schütz, and in contemporary music by the composers of the Second Viennese School and others.

Craft met Stravinsky in 1948, and from then until the composer's death in 1971, Craft continued to work alongside Stravinsky in a variety of roles. A relationship that started as out as a rather meager role for Craft eventually evolved into a full blown artistic partnership. Craft wrote the libretto for The Flood. He lived with the Stravinsky family in California and later in New York. Craft continued to remain close to the composer's widow Vera until her death in 1982.

After Stravinsky's death, Craft continued to concertize and to write. His 2002 book An Improbable Life details his life before, during, and after his friendship with Stravinsky. The memoir elaborates on the impact that Igor Stravinsky has had and continues to have on his life.

He collaborated with Stravinsky on 6 vols. of a catechumenical and discursive nature: Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (N.Y., 1959); Memories and Commentaries (N.Y., 1960); Expositions and Developments (N.Y., 1962); Dialogues and a Diary (N.Y., 1963); Themes and Episodes (N.Y., 1967); Retrospections and Conclusions (N.Y., 1969). Resentful of frequent referral to him as a musical Boswell, Craft insists that his collaboration with Stravinsky was more akin to that between the Goncourt brothers, both acting and reacting to an emerging topic of discussion, with Stravinsky evoking his ancient memories in his careful English, or fluent French, spiced with unrestrained discourtesies toward professional colleagues on the American scene, and Craft reifying the material with an analeptic bulimia of quaquaversal literary , psychological, physiological, and culinary references in a flow of finely ordered dialogue.

Craft is an award winning conductor. Besides recording virtually all of Stravinsky's music(Craft has recorded a ten volume discography of the music of Igor Stravinsky on the Music Masters Label), Craft conducted well-received recordings of Schoenberg, Varese, Webern and more works of then contemporary composers. While not a ' showy ' conductor in any sense of the word, Craft is known for his technically and musically precise interpretations. Robert Craft is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque, as well as the Edison Prize for his recordings of music by Varese and Stravinsky. Robert Craft has conducted most of the world's major orchestras in the United States; (New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Minneapolis), Canada, Europe, Russia, Japan, Korea, Mexico South America, Australia, Newand New Zealand. He is the first American to have conducted Alban Berg's "Wozzeck and Lulu".

Craft led the world premieres of Stravinsky's later works: "Von Himmel hoch", "Agon", "The Flood", "Abraham and Isaac", "Variations" (Chicago Symphony), "Introitus", and "Requiem Canticles".

Craft has not been without criticism in his life. Some view him as a sycophant in relation to Stravinsky. Others blame him for leading Stravinky into the artistically ' fallow ' regions of 1960's serialism. As a recorder of Stravinsky's life and legacy, some claim that he is simply not in a position to be a neutral observer. Certainly, obtaining a clear, unfettered view of Igor Stravinsky is complicated by Robert Craft's intimate and personally inter-connected musicological views and writings.

Robert Craft however, is not without his own legacy. Besides working on an intimate basis with one of the greats from the last century, Craft produced volumes of academic and personal writings on Stravinsky and on others composers. He most certainly remains in a vanguard position in relation to twentieth century art music. Robert Craft was awarded the International Prix du Disque at the Cannes Music Festival for 2002. With or without the assistance of Igor Stravinsky, Craft is an important musician whose impact on music of the last century is still being felt.

Robert Craft’s publications include Prejudices in Disguise (N.Y., 1974); Stravinsky in Photographs and Documents (with Vera Stravinsky; London, 1976; N.Y., 1978); Current Convictions: Views and Reviews (N. Y., 1977); Present Perspectives (N.Y., 1984); Stravinsky: Glimpses of a Life (N.Y., 1992). He also translated and edited Stravinsky, Selected Correspondence {2 vols., N.Y., 1982, 1984).

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