Robert Craft (1923-2015): An improbable life

American conductor and musicologist Robert Craft passed away on November 10 at the age of 92. Craft was best known as the advisor and close friend of Igor Stravinsky from 1948 until Stravinsky’s death in 1971; at times, he even lived in the Stravinsky home. But Craft was also a tastemaker in American classical music during the 20th century. He championed the works of composers Arnold Schönberg, Anton Webern, and Alban Berg by conducting and recording their music. He recorded a collection of Webern’s complete works, and he collaborated closely with Stravinsky and conducted recording sessions and premieres of the composer’s later works.

Gesualdo madrigalists, with Robert Craft (center) & Marilyn Horne (1950s)
Gesualdo madrigalists, with Robert Craft (center) & Marilyn Horne (1950s)
Drawing from interviews with Stravinsky and his friends and family and the composer’s diaries and correspondence, Craft chronicled Stravinsky’s life in his written works. Many of the firsthand biographical accounts of Stravinsky were written by Craft, often as a co-author with the composer and his second wife, Vera Stravinsky. Reviews of Craft as a conductor were mixed, and his legacy as the primary Stravinsky biographer remains controversial (Fox, 2015). However, Robert Craft continues to be an impactful presence in 20th-century classical music.


Stravinsky, V., Craft, R., & Otto Klemperer archive (Library of Congress). (1978). Stravinsky in pictures and documents. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Stravinsky, V., Stravinsky, I., & Craft, R. (1985). Dearest bubushkin: The correspondence of Vera and Igor Stravinsky, 1921-1954, with excerpts from Vera Stravinsky’s diaries, 1922-1971. New York, N.Y: Thames and Hudson.


Schönberg, A. (2007). Serenade, Variations, op. 31, Bach Orchestrations [Conducted by Robert Craft]. Hong Kong: Naxos Music.

Stravinsky, I. (2007). Histoire du soldat suite [Conducted by Robert Craft]. Hong Kong: Naxos Music.

Webern, A. (2015). Vocal and chamber works [Conducted by Robert Craft]. Franklin, Tenn. : Naxos Music.


Fox, M. (2015, November 14). Robert Craft, Stravinsky Adviser and Steward, Dies at 92. New York Times.


Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft (right) in Australia in 1961. Photo from Austrailian Broadcast Company Archives.

Gesualdo madrigalists, with Robert Craft (center) & Marilyn Horne (1950s) via WikiMedia Commons.


Sara Outhier, Digital Media Librarian, Hamon Arts Library |

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