Stravinsky is one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He is known for his impressive stylistic diversity. His masterpieces explore neo-nationalism in his early ballets, nationalism around the World War I era, neo-classicism between the 1920s and 50s, and a more personal style in the last decade of his life. Although he lived and worked in numerous places besides his native Russia, he never lost touch with his Russian origins.
Stravinsky was born near St. Petersburg in 1882 to a family of upper class origins. He grew up within walking distance of the Mariinksy Theatre, where Stravinsky’s father, Fyodor, a professional opera singer, had made his debut in Gounod’s Faust. Stravinsky’s mother was a fine amateur pianist and his father moved in the same social circles as Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Mussorgsky and lots of prominent music critics and conductors. The Stravinsky household was one that was rich in the arts and where the young Igor thrived as a pianist and composer.
He entered St. Petersburg University as a law student, where he met Rimsky-Korsakov’s youngest son Vladimir, leading Stravinsky to become a pupil of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov himself. Despite his confidence in young Stravinsky’s abilities, he advised him against entering the conservatory because of his lack of formal musical training that Rimsky-Korsakov thought might discourage him from developing as a composer. During his law studies, he continued to attend lessons and compose increasingly impressive works for his mentor such as his Piano Sonata in F# minor and the first draft of his Symphony in E flat, which was finished in 1905 and performed in 1908, with a positive response from the public, Stravinsky’s first ever press attention.