Stravinsky, an unclassifiable composer, was accustomed to music from a very early age in particularly thanks to his father who was a famous bass at the St. Petersburg Opera. From Rimsky-Korsakov, one of his teachers, he retained orchestral luxuriance and his first works were imbued with the shimmering colours of Russian folklore. His encounter with Diaghilev, who commissioned The Firebird ballet (1910), would determine the young composer’s future. Stravinsky began to travel and his insolent and disconcerting art made a name for him beyond the Russian frontiers.
Stravinsky’s ballets caused a sensation in Paris. Although Debussy, Ravel and Schmitt were in raptures about the composer, the first performance of The Rite of Spring in 1913 in the new Théâtre des Champs-Elysées caused one of the greatest scandals in the history of art. Without ever constraining his musical language, Stravinsky spent the years of the First World War in Switzerland integrating jazz into his universe and composing new scores of pure simplicity.
Stravinsky’s music cannot be classified but has always been a reference for modernity, originality and inventiveness. Whether it be the musical pastiches of Pulccinella, the religious fervour of his Mass (1951) or the serial and modern techniques in Canticum Sacrum, Stravinsky is indefinable. With his grating humour or violent rhythms, Stravinsky’s music was essential for future generations. Exiled in California from 1939 onwards, Stravinsky died in 1971 aged eighty-nine. He was buried in Venice, the city he most loved.