Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was born in Oranienbaum, Russia on June 17, 1882. He began studying the piano at the age of nine and started improvising and composing in his teen years. When he was twenty, Stravinsky met the great Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), with whom he studied for several years. Although he was raised in St. Petersburg, Stravinsky became an international figure while still in his twenties. His composing career led him to Switzerland in 1914 and later to Paris, Venice, New York, and Hollywood.
Stravinsky wrote in more genres than most composers in the twentieth century. His output spans from pieces for solo wind instrument to huge orchestral and choral works. His greatest early contributions are his ballet pieces — The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913).
The Rite of Spring arguably has had a greater impact on music than any other single composition in the twentieth century. It was revolutionary in its intense, pounding rhythms and its stark, dissonant harmonies. Also, in The Rite Stravinsky wrote polyrhythms — two or more separate, independent rhythmic ideas that are presented at the same time. During the world premiere of the piece in Paris, the audience was so shocked by what they heard that a riot ensued.
Stravinsky went through several distinctly different stylistic periods in his composing career. One of those periods is called his neoclassical phase and is quite a contrast to his earlier, more dissonant style. His Pulcinella Suite (1920) sounds as if a late baroque or early classical era composer wrote it.
In 1939 tension in Europe forced Stravinsky to move to the United States. He eventually settled in Hollywood and continued his music career as a US citizen. Stravinsky was quite a celebrity and in 1962 was honored by the State Department and also was a guest of President and Mrs. Kennedy at the White House.