He was a Russian composer who began two of the major strains of contemporary music. Almost immediately, however, he began to incline toward the music of the French impressionists Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. This resulted in such pieces as Fireworks, The Faun and the Shepherdess, and the major ballet Firebird.
Firebird's success led to two more ballets for Diaghilev's Ballets russes: Petrouchka and Le Sacre du Printemps, both landmarks of twentieth-century music..
The end of World War I moved Stravinsky's music even further in direction with L'Histoire du Soldat, Tango, and Ragtime. At the same time, he became interested in classical procedures. Masterpieces include the octet, the "ballet with song" Pulcinella, and Oedipus Rex, which takes off from the Handelian oratorio. Between the two wars, he was probably the most influential modern composer, especially in the United States and France. His masterpieces include the Concerto for two solo pianofortes, the piano and the violin concerti, the ballets Apollo and Jeu de Cartes, Concerto in D for strings, Danses Concertantes, Dumbarton Oaks Concerto, Symphony of Psalms, Symphony in Three Movements, Symphony in C, Ebony Concerto, Mass, climaxing in the full-length opera The Rake's Progress (libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman), a twentieth-century classic.
After The Rake's Progress, Stravinsky felt he had reached a creative impasse with the neoclassic style. He turned to serialism and became strongly influenced by the manner of Anton Webern, although he never lost his personal musical imprint. Major works include Movements for piano and orchestra, The Dove Descending Breaks the Air for chorus, Cantata, In Memoriam Dylan Thomas, Three Shakespeare Songs, Threni, Introit, and Requiem Canticles.
Almost everything he wrote is of very high quality, and much of it has entered the standard repertory.