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Obituary: Soulima Stravinsky

David Revill
Friday 16 December 1994 00:02 GMT

Sviatoslav Soulima Stravinsky, pianist, composer: born Lausanne 23 September 1910; married (one son); died Sarasota, Florida 28 November 1994.

Soulima Stravinsky was the youngest son of the composer Igor Stravinsky and a notable pianist and composer himself.

Stravinsky composed mostly for his own instrument, and his published music was written after the death of his father in 1971. Interestingly, one of the earliest available pieces, the Piano Suite for the Right Hand (1975), begins where Igor left off (after the death of Schoenberg): with a 12-tone row, though no transpositions are employed. In other works, such as the Sonata for Cello and Piano, there is more variety, and greater lyricism and expression, with a sense for development and structure which rewards repeated hearings.As well as concert works, Stravinsky wrote educational pieces for children, including Six Sonatinas for Young Pianists, and Piano Music for Children, which has become a standard album for piano teaching in the United States, Europe and Australia.

He published a set of cadenzas for Mozart concerti and edited several classical scores. "I cannot help feeling indebted to the great masters of all times whose works I revere, play and teach," Stravinsky wrote. "To keep his ears fresh and alert, to stay

away from formulas, that is the challenge of the composer who does not reject the past."

Soulima Stravinsky was born in Lausanne in 1910. His father was working on Petrushka when Soulima was born, the youngest of three children by Igor's first marriage. His names commemorated the family's descent from the Polish counts Soulima-Stravinsky. S v etik, as his family and close friends knew him, spent his early years in Paris, and studied at the Ecole Normale de la Musique. Nadia Boulanger taught hin theory and composition privately, and he learnt piano from Alfred Cortot and Isidor Philipp.

At Valenciennes in April 1930, he gave in private his first solo recital, and the years up to the Second World War saw the beginnings of an international virtuoso career. After his Paris debut in 1934 came extensive tours. Stravinsky's career at this stage was entwined with the work of his father. When Igor was completing his concerto he tried it out with Soulima at one of the specially constructed keyboards, "test-hearing it measure by measure", and as a consequence of this kind of help Stravinsky filswas the dedicatee of a number of his father's pieces. He toured with several of these works, among them the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, the Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, and the Concerto for two solo pianos, which father and son recorded in 1938.

Just before the war, Soulima joined the French army, and during the Occupation he performed for collaborationist audiences. In 1946, he married Francoise Bon; their son John had been born the previous year, and Francoise had two children from her first marriage.

The family moved to the United States in 1948. This was at the invitation of his father, who wanted to patch up their increasingly turbulent relationship. Igor arranged a debut recital at Red Rocks, Colorado. The two began to give joint concerts again, but the tension between them made it too difficult to persevere for long. Soulima and his family moved, first to New York, then in 1950 to Urbana, where he began to teach piano at Illinois University. He remained there for a quarter-century, alth o ugh hetoured for part of every year, and gave summer courses at Stanford, the Banff School in Canada, and the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara.

Stravinsky's former student Roger Shields founded the Stravinsky Awards for piano students in 1983, and Sarasota, the town in Florida to which he retired, made 27 December 1992 "Soulima Stravinsky Day".

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