- Dearest Bubushkin: Selected Letters and Diaries of Vera and Igor Stravinsky edited by Robert Craft
Thames and Hudson, 239 pp, £25.00, October 1985, ISBN 0 500 01368 3
- Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence Vol. III edited by Robert Craft
Faber, 543 pp, £35.00, October 1985, ISBN 0 571 13373 8
Stravinsky was a dull correspondent, but at least he was Stravinsky. His wife’s letters to him, which preponderate over his to her in Robert Craft’s new selection of Stravinskyiana, Dearest Bubushkin, have biographical importance but do not all that frequently rise above the level of any wife to any husband. The book, though physically attractive and lavishly illustrated, is a hard read. What is it that keeps one going through a long sequence of letters with their arbitrary reference to time and place and their detailed personal content? Usually their literary value and/or narrative arrangement. Vera Stravinsky’s letters have more of the former than her husband’s, but that isn’t saying much. Craft’s arrangement of the material is chronological (1921 to 1954) but creates little suspense because, by and large, it is the recipient, not the author of the letters who is doing that, away from home on his adventures. Nor can the moderately enlivening format of the Selected Correspondence (of which the third and final volume is now published) be used to parcel up correspondences and themes: for Vera there is only one correspondent, and only one theme – marital solicitude.
Vol. 8 No. 6 · 3 April 1986
SIR: Since Paul Driver accepts Paul Horgan’s Encounters with Stravinsky as worth citing (LRB, 23 January), let me refer him to Appendix B of this book. It is a letter sent to the New Yorker’s editor in January 1972. ‘In the course of countless conversations with Stravinsky during the last decade and a half of his life… I was privileged to be in his company many times… when we spoke always in English; and I have never known conversational English more pungent than his, or more grammatically correct, precise (often devastatingly so) in vocabulary, and original in style, all within the frame of the natural syntax of the language … As for style – to me, anyhow, Stravinsky in his recorded dialogues (not “writings”) with Mr Craft always sounded like the Stravinsky I listened to time and again in direct English conversation.’ Mr Horgan noted that this letter (which flatly contradicted the New Yorker’s music critic Winthrop Sargeant, another doubter of the authenticity of the Stravinsky in the dialogues) had not yet appeared in that magazine by the time his book went to print.
Paul Driver writes: In my copy of Paul Horgan’s Encounters with Stravinsky the appendix citing this letter has been omitted as part of an abridgement by the author for the British edition (Bodley Head, 1972). The comments in the letter don’t entirely match Horgan’s evocation of Stravinsky’s speech throughout the book, but I would agree that Stravinsky’s conversational English was pungent.