Robert Craft: Recordings of Stravinsky and Schoenberg
"Robert Craft is the best conductor of my works....The old ones, the new ones, and even those not yet written."
Robert Craft holds a unique place in the world of music. In 1947, while still a student at Juilliard, he wrote to Igor Stravinsky asking to borrow the score and instrumental parts for the Symphonies of Wind Instruments in order to perform the piece the following spring at a concert in New York's Town Hall. Stravinsky received the letter on the same day that he began to prepare a new version of the work. Stravinsky felt something auspicious in the coincidence and answered that he would like to conduct the premiere of the work in its new form at Robert Craft's concert. An astonished Craft replied that this would be a great honour and in April 1948 he shared the programme with Stravinsky, the first of many such occasions during the next twenty years. Craft describes his first meeting with Stravinsky, in Washington DC, March 31st 1948, in Stravinsky: Chronicle of a Friendship.
Occurring on the same day and at the same time that W. H. Auden delivered the libretto for The Rake's Progress to the composer, Stravinsky quickly understood that Craft's evident knowledge of English literature, a subject remote from the composer's world, could be useful to him during his work on the opera. In any case, from then to the end of Stravinsky's life, Craft remained his constant companion, understanding the composer's intentions in the performance of his music, and in addition to his separate career as conductor, Craft is the prime source for perspectives of Stravinsky's life and work.
Robert Craft has conducted most of the world's major orchestras in the United States, (New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco, Los Angeles), Canada, Europe, Russia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, South America, Australia and New Zealand. He was the first American to conduct Alban Berg's Wozzeck and Lulu and he led the world premieres of Stravinsky's later masterpieces; Von Himmel Hoch, Agon, The Flood, Abraham and Isaac, Variations (Chicago Symphony), Introitus and Requiem Canticles.
His pioneering recording of Baroque repertoire and of contemporary music, are highly esteemed particularly those of Monteverdi, Gesualdo, Schütz, JS Bach, the complete works of Webern and seven albums of music by Schoenberg. He has twice won the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque, as well as the Edison Prize, for his recordings of music by Varese and Stravinsky.