Stephen Walsh was already an authority on the music of Igor Stravinsky when he published, to great acclaim, the first volume of his life of the composer in 2000. He took the story up to 1934, with the exiled maestro living a dual life in France entre deux guerres. In Paris he would spend as much time as he could with his worldly mistress, the ex-actress Vera Sudeykina, in between tiring excursions to the countryside near Grenoble – nine hours away in those days before the TGV – to be with his wife Catherine, or Katya, and their children. The country was where Stravinsky could write his music, but Paris was where he could be himself. Unfortunately for him, Mme Stravinsky began to feel bored and marginalised, and soon after Walsh’s narrative resumes, at the beginning of this second and concluding volume, the family decide to decamp to Paris.
The obvious strain this creates in Stravinsky’s life – having wife and mistress living on top of each other – is not the only difficulty in a close, patriarchal family existence. Most of his family, including his wife and (later on) himself, appear to have tuberculosis, and doctors soon order