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Stravinsky's Instrumental Works

Key works

  • Quatre Etudes (Four Studies), op. 7 for Piano
  • Le cinq doigts (The Five Fingers) Eight Pieces for Piano
  • Sonate for Piano
  • Duo concertant for Violin and Piano
  • Sonata for 2 Pianos

Although Stravinsky was a very competent pianist and always composed at the piano he did not write a lot of music for solo performance. A couple of early works, the Scherzo for Piano (1903) and Sonata in F sharp minor (1903-4) were "lost" for many years. The latter was described by Stravinsky as "inept imitation of late Beethoven" though it can sound more like Tchaikovsky. The Four Etudes for Piano composed in 1908 and very short, owe more to the exoticism of Scriabin.

The rest of Stravinsky's piano output belongs to his neoclassical period. He wrote the eight piano miniatures of Les Cinq Doigts in 1921. The five fingers of the right hand remain in nearly the same position throughout each piece playing melodies based on these five notes, with a simple accompaniment in the left hand. Piano Rag Music of 1919 was another experiment, described by Stravinsky as "a written- out portrait of improvisation". The Sonate for Piano of 1924 has three movements, the two outer ones a kind of perpetual motion swirling round the artfully decorated central Adagietto.

Stravinsky met the violinist Samuel Dushkin in 1931 and wrote a number of pieces for the two of them to perform together during the 1930s. The Duo concertant features five movements in typically brisk neoclassical style including two Eglogues or pastoral music. The Sonata for Two Pianos (1944) is one of Stravinsky's later works in the neoclassical style with evenly flowing melodies, occasional dissonance and juxtaposition of two keys at once in some places.

© Kevin Stephens/BBC

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