The “ambisexual” Stravinsky

Today’s edition of Edge carries a review of Robert Kraft’s new book “Stravinsky: Discoveries and Memories”(Naxos Books), with some biographical insights not hitherto examined.images

“Craft’s book drops a bomb that, in the tawdry modern way, could yet overshadow the other Rite thinking that has attended the recent 100th anniversary.

“Calling his revelation “long overdue” yet timely in sense that things have changed, the world has changed, and these things can now be talked about, Craft writes, “It will come a surprise to most people that in the early Diaghilev period Stravinsky was exclusively in an ambisexual phase while writing ’Petrushka’ and ’The Rite of Spring.’ ”

“Even without the head-scratchers of “exclusively,” “ambisexual” and “phase,” “surprise” is a stunner of an understatement predicting the storm of controversy his assertion that Stravinsky had sex with men in the period in which he was composing “The Rite” would stir up, as it has. It would have been a poor calculation for Craft, whose career as a musician and writer, and whose own personal fame, rest on his long association with Stravinsky as colleague and confidant, to steal his master’s thunder in the Rite Year. But Craft had to know that his contention, and the raft of evidence of whatever reliability he has supplied to support it, would sell books. Whatever else, Craft is back in the news, right alongside the master.

“I’m going to wager right up front that, before crying foul, the experts who doubt the veracity of Craft’s claims about Stravinsky’s sex with men read Craft’s 400-page memoir – or at least the chapter “Amorous Augmentations” – with the same slack-jawed, page-turning, finger-burning fascination I did. True or not, it’s a spellbinding story, and at least on its surface none of it seems implausible or distasteful. Men in their 20s, particularly those with libidos like Stravinsky’s (Craft says the composer’s persisted into his 80s), are known for the range of their sexual activities, and the milieu in which Stravinsky worked at the time – Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and the Parisian homosexual underground of Les Apaches – would have provided an abundance of opportunity. It would be stranger to think that Stravinsky had not had sex with men then.”


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