Igor Stravinsky, a correspondence.

28 Feb

Scan 3


In the early days of May, 1958, as my first year in college was ending, I wrote Igor Stravinsky’s publishers  J. & W. Chester Ltd. to ask if I could arrange for percussion quartet, the three dances from Stravinsky’s L’ Histoire du Soldat. The letter I received in reply is copied below as well as further communications between myself, Stravinsky and his publishers.



May 9, 58. jpg

May 19, 1958.

May 23, 59. jpg

July 29, 58. jpg

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July 29, 59. jpg

And so, emboldened by the fearlessness of youth, I wrote Igor Stravinsky asking for his permission to transcribe the three dances from L’ Histoire du Soldat  for  a quartet of percussionists.  I had to deal with problems of my own making and a few copyright hurdles proffered by Stravinsky’s publishers. To my ears, their letters, written in quaint, but authoritative English, were at once humorous, revelatory and a bit intimidating. However, I continued writing my arrangements sure in the knowledge that one day I would receive the permission I sought. Voila, it came to be. I now have two dated Igor Stravinsky signatures. [1.]

Though I blush to inform you, Dear reader,  please note the absence of my signature on my letter to Mr. Stravinsky. Ooops!


[1.] I have received a few letters asking about this arrangement,which turned out to be only one, the Devil’s Dance. I did finish it, it was recorded by the Ithaca College percussion ensemble conducted by Warren Benson on Golden Pressed Records. I have three recordings dating from the late 1950s, but the surface noise makes it almost impossible to listen to them. I still have the score and I’m not sure about the parts. At any rate I’m not really interested in hearing a performance today.  The arrangement has some merit, but not enough I think to justify a modern audience or me.  I don’t even know if Golden crest records exists and if it does, if it would have a master of the album called Warren Benson Conducts.


Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Articles, Composers, History


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6 responses to “Igor Stravinsky, a correspondence.

  1. Rick Sacks

    February 28, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Fascinating Robin,
    Now how do we hear the the arrangements?

  2. rixax

    February 28, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Fascinating Robin,
    Now how do we hear the arrangements?

    • robinengelman

      March 1, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      Hi Frank – Did you and Rick get getogether on your replies?

    • robinengelman

      March 1, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      Hi Rick – Did you and Frank get getogether on your replies?


  3. Frank Morphy

    February 28, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Very cool! Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2015 17:18:31 +0000 To:

  4. Bill Brennan

    May 2, 2015 at 7:44 am

    I love the language and tone in the letters from the publisher! Bill B.


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