Along with Arnold Schoenberg and Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky was one of the most influential composers of Modernism. In his pioneering ballet music Le Sacre du printemps of 1913, he liberated rhythm from the corset of regular bars and experimented with polytonal elements. Later, with compositions such as Pulcinella, he became the father of the Neoclassical movement, and in later years also incorporated serial structures and an idiosyncratic adaptation of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone music into his constantly developing musical language. His life reflects the upheavals and conflicts of the twentieth century; Stravinsky even flirted with the idea of Mussolini’s fascism for a while.
Displaced from his homeland, the composer successively acquired French and then American citizenship. He returned to Russia after the October Revolution only once during a concert tour. Connection to his roots and cosmopolitanism, European Modernism and Russian Orthodox faith, impulsiveness and sobriety characterise contrasting aspects of both the musician’s personality and his works, the latter also profiting from his insatiable interest in literature and the visual arts. Stravinsky also achieved global fame as an interpreter of his own works. In 1924, Stravinsky played his piano concerto under the direction of Wilhelm Furtwängler with the Berliner Philharmoniker, and conducted the orchestra himself in 1931 and 1964. Highlights of the era of Sir Simon Rattle as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker included the education project on the Sacre du Printemps early in his tenure, and towards the end, the German premiere of the long-lost funeral music Chant funèbre.