As the 20th century winds to its close, Igor Stravinsky stands securely as its most important and influential composer. For more than six decades his works defined modernism in music, just as Picasso's canvases showed the essence of modernism in painting. Like that great Spanish artist, who was almost his exact contemporary, Stravinsky attained a dominating stature in his field. Only a handful of composers rivaled him in significance during his lifetime. None surpassed him.
Stravinsky's pre-eminence among the modern masters rests in large part on the great originality of his work. The composer introduced exciting new rhythmic possibilities into concert music, made expressive use of dissonance, and conceived unprecedented instrumental sonorities. These novelties baffled some listeners early in the century and cemented the composer's reputation as a daring modernist. Yet for all his innovation, Stravinsky was no iconoclast bent on destroying the past. On the contrary, his art was in many ways rooted in tradition. He drew inspiration from legends and fairy tales, from old Italian comedy and classical myths. And he loved music from earlier centuries and paid homage to it in a number of his works.
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