Igor Stravinsky is one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, born on June 17, 1882.
Stravinsky grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia and was taken with music from an early age. He studied piano and music theory as a child, though he received a great deal of discouragement from the likes of famed composer Alexander Glazunov. He was expected to study law but eventually devoted more time to composition at the encouragement of Rimsky-Korsakov. He would study with Korsakov for six years until the composer’s death in 1908. From there he was virtually a nomad for much of his life, living in Ukraine, Switzerland, Paris, and the United States.
He died in 1969, having composed a plethora of renowned pieces, but the theater is where he thrived most. He composed a number of operas (more below), but his most famous works are his ballets “The Rite of Spring,” “Petrushka,” and “The Firebird.” “The Rite of Spring’s” 1913 premiere in Paris incited the most infamous riot in the history of classical music.
He was renowned for his wide-range of musical styles, his work often categorized by differing periods.
He would be given a posthumous Grammy Award and would also receive a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star after his death.
Stravinsky’s most famous works are not his operas, but “The Rake’s Progress” is undeniably his operatic masterpiece. The Faustian tale is widely performed around the world and is notable for its classically-sized orchestra.
Interestingly, Stravinsky had a propensity for creating operas out of mythical figures. Such is the case with “Oedipus Rex,” and “The Flood.”
Watch and Listen
Here is Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, and Samuel Ramey in “The Rake’s Progress.”