A blast from Robert Craft

A blast from Robert Craft


norman lebrecht

November 15, 2015

The obits are starting to flow for Igor Stravinsky’s loyal amanuensis, who died last Tuesday aged 92, and they are uniformly dreary, flat and formulaic. 

What’s missing is Craft’s distinctive voice: furiously polemical when anybody else wrote about Stravinsky, withering in a Gore Vidal kind of way, classical in the Greek sense of the word and lofty as Parnassus with a drink in its hand.

We can do no better than bring you a sample of Craft’s savagery against the meticulous, if remote, Stephen Walsh, author of the current academic life of Igor Stravinsky. Sample:

At times the Stravinsky of Walsh’s book reminds me of the biography of Lycurgus, about whom absolutely nothing is known, but who is nevertheless the subject of one of Plutarch’s Lives. The present case is something like the reverse. “Everything” known about the subject is gathered into a gallimaufry of “oral history” (gossip), apocrypha, clippings from unedifying reviews, scraps of correspondence, unqualified opinions, guesses and suppositions, with the result that nothing new of significance is offered either about the music or the man, who in Walsh’s book is all but unrecognizable from the one I knew.

Read the full blast here. It’s on the Naxos site, where Craft recycled many of his own recordings.

Right or wrong, classical music needs more contrarians like the über-erudite Robert Craft.

Igor Stravinsky in Munich, 1950 with Robert Craft (American Conductor and writer on Music, b.1923) around time of Rake's Progress.


  • Daniel F. says:

    The NY Times obituary amazingly takes seriously the book by Lillian Libman, who was NOT IS’s “personal assistant”, That book was just eviscerated by Mr. Craft so many years ago. And it also takes seriously the bio by S. Walsh that Mr. Craft similarly eviscerated in 2006. Good for the blogkeeper for reprinting it!! Lamentably this kind of slip-shod “reporting” is now very common in the NY Times.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Mr Craft used to “eviscerate” any text about Stravinsky that was not authored by himself.

      • Daniel F. says:

        And for good reason: the authors, like Libman and Walsh, didn’t know anything about what they were writing. This is not a matter of “ideas” but of “facts on the ground” (including musical facts), which Craft was in a position to know and which they were not.

  • Philip Amos says:

    It’s a shame that even in a quasi-obituary, NL could not resist that remarkably snide sentence: “It’s on the Naxos site, where Craft recycled many of his own recordings.” ‘Recycled’ by definition suggests that Craft’s recordings were just so much waste, and it makes me wonder if mayhap NL got ‘crafted’ at some point. But it’s hard to say, for he may rather have simply noticed a chance for a silly dig (and a gross inaccuracy) directed at Naxos, his Nemesis-in-Chief (until an even bigger one comes along).