“The tonal splendor of the Steinway is an imperishable impression.”

Igor Stravinsky

Stravinsky (1882–1971) has been called "one of music's truly epochal innovators". The most important aspect of Stravinsky's work, aside from his technical innovations (including in rhythm and harmony), is the “changing face” of his compositional style while always “retaining a distinctive, essential identity.”

Stravinsky was noted for his distinctive use of rhythm, especially in his Rite of Spring. According to composer Philip Glass, "the idea of pushing the rhythms across the bar lines [...] led the way [...]. The rhythmic structure of music became much more fluid and in a certain way spontaneous". Glass mentions Stravinsky's "primitive, offbeat rhythmic drive.” According to Andrew J. Browne, "Stravinsky is perhaps the only composer who has raised rhythm in itself to the dignity of art". Stravinsky's rhythm and vitality greatly influenced the composer Aaron Copland.

Over the course of his career, Stravinsky called for a wide variety of orchestral, instrumental, and vocal forces, ranging from single instruments in such works as Three Pieces for Clarinet (1918) or Elegy for Solo Viola (1944) to the enormous orchestra of the Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps; 1913) which Copland characterized as "the foremost orchestral achievement of the 20th century."

The Rite of Spring transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure and was largely responsible for Stravinsky's enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary. His "Russian phase" which continued with works such as Renard, the Soldier's Tale and Les Noces, was followed in the 1920s by a period in which he turned to neoclassical music. The works from this period tended to make use of traditional musical forms (i.e. concerto grosso, fugue and symphony), drawing on earlier styles, particularly from the 18th century. In the 1950s, Stravinsky adopted serial procedures. His compositions shared traits with examples of his earlier output: rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few two- or three-note cells, and clarity of form.

When Stravinsky died in 1971, his position as the century's most significant composer was summed up by co-worker Pierre Boulez: "The death of Stravinsky means the final disappearance of a musical generation which gave music its basic shock at the beginning of this century and which brought about the real departure from Romanticism. Something radically new, even foreign to Western tradition, had to be found for music to survive, and to enter our contemporary era. The glory of Stravinsky was to have belonged to this extremely gifted generation and to be one of the most creative of them all."

George Balanchine, head of the New York City Ballet and a fellow Russian, said: "I feel he is still with us. He has left us the treasures of his genius, which will live with us forever.”

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