The last Stravinsky link is gone

The last Stravinsky link is gone


norman lebrecht

November 14, 2015

The death of Robert Craft, the great composer’s assistant from 1948 to 1971, has been confirmed by his family.

Craft, who died on November 10, aged 92, acted as spokesman and swordsman for Stravinsky during his later years. He published five books of conversations with Stravinsky, asking many leading questions to which his master rose with alacrity. Some challenged certain controversial remarks, saying they did not recognise Stravinsky’s voice in the English transcription. Craft lashed back vehemently at all such criticisms.

In latter years, he floated a mischievous theory that Stravinsky had a homosexual affair with Ravel, apparently basing it on a discredited source.

His relationship with Stravinsky was never dull. A man who sat behind them during an LSO concert at the Royal Albert Hall for the 50th anniversary of the Rite of Spring, conducted by its original maestro, Pierre Monteux, told me he heard Stravinsky disparaging Monteux throughout the performance and Craft adding constant fuel to his fire. That was Craft’s role: maintaining Igor’s menace.

stravinsky robert craft
photo: Australian Broadcasting Company


  • John says:

    I never followed Craft very much, but when he surfaced it seemed like he was in some kind of food fight with one of his critics. It sounds like he enjoyed a good tangle. Definitely an important figure, though.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Someone who attained his importance through his relationship with a REALLY important man. If he had never been Stravinsky re-inventor, he would have been forgotten by now. His independent essays – i.e. not ghostwritten Stravinsky – are unreadable for their snobbish narcisism, trying to impress the reader with his library, instead of trying to be essential, clear and authentic.

      • Don Drewecki says:

        There is not the slightest evidence that Craft was some pathetic pipsqueak who latched onto some naive but trusting couple from the Old Country in order to claim glory for himself. Other than Lillian Libman, who was hardly close to Stravinsky, and Stephen Walsh, who wasn’t even around, there are NO books or articles anywhere by people who knew Stravinsky well — e.g. Balanchine — who state anything close to the notion that Craft was Stravinsky’s puppeteer.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Puppeteer may be too strong, but if you watch all the available videos with Stravinsky talking and discussing, you get a different impression of the man. Craft’s conversation books are writings by Craft and try to present Stravinsky as a snobbish intellectual, which is just not credible. It may be that Craft has woken-up some slumbering wish of Stravinsky to BE a snobbish intellectual, as could be concluded from his comparable collaboration with Paul Valery (Poetics of Music). I think Stravinksy the man was much more sympathetic that Craft’s fabrication.

          • Don Drewecki says:

            Please offer the evidence of such figures as Balanchine, Kirstein, John McClure, Paul Horgan and others which prove that Craft was manipulating the old man. Craft was, as B. H. Haggin pointed out, practically Stravinsky’s adopted son for the last 20 years. Craft has pointed out that Stravinsky had cool-to-non-existent relations with his children for years, by the way. Why would Craft _want_ to lie???

  • Charles Clark Maxwell says:

    A great, underrated conductor of non-Stravinsky though. His two versions of the complete Webern (late 1950s and mid-2000s) are unrivalled.


    • John Borstlap says:

      But aren’t these Webern recordings based upon the then common misunderstanding of Webern as a cool, dry formalist? In fact, Webern tried to be romantic, albeit in miniature fashion.

  • Jean Collen says:

    When Stravinsky came to South Africa in 1962 at the age of 80, I, aged 17, sang in the SABC choir in a performance of Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms”. Stravinsky himself conducted the orchestra in “The Firebird Suite” while Robert Craft conducted the choir in “Symphony of Psalms”. I am sorry to learn of his death.