Musical Traditions in Russia:
Two great schools of Russian music grew up side by side during the nineteenth century in St. Petersburg and Moscow; the St. Petersburg school included Tschaikowsky and other great composers in the Romantic tradition.
Russian Modernism: In Moscow, a new school of music arose which embraced the avant-garde. Exiled Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky was active in Vienna; his artwork reflected the changing mood of the times.
The Russian Revolution:
Russia suffered greatly during the first half of the twentieth century: tens of millions died in the two world wars, tens of millions more under the brutal, genocidal "purges" of the murderous dictator Josef Stalin.
Before the Russian Revolution (1917), many prominent composers fled the country, among them Igor Stravinsky, who resided for a time in Paris before emigrating to the U. S., and Sergei Prokofiev, who later returned to the Soviet Union. Others remained, struggling under the scrutiny of the Communist regime, often under intense pressure to produce what was deemed appropriate music. Included among these were: Aram Khachaturian(1903-1978), Dmitri Kabalevsky(1904-1987), and Dmitri Shostakovish(1906-1983)
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
Along with Arnold Schönberg, Igor Stravinsky is the most significant composer of the Twentieth Century.
Stravinsky came to prominence while writing music for ballets choreographed by the Ballets Russes dance company in Paris under Sergei Diaghilev (Diaghilev frequently commissioned new music for his ballets from the many young Russian émigrés residing in Paris at that time). Diaghilev commissioned music for The Firebird (1910), and Petrushka (1911) from Stravinsky, both work received critical acclaim.
The following year, Diaghelev commissioned yet another ballet score from Stravinsky. This particular work, The Rite of Spring (1913), caused a tremendous stir. The apex of the plot involves a pagan ritual where a young virgin is sacrificed to the god of Spring; this alone was ample cause to offend the sensibilities of most people. Stravinsky seized this opportunity to write a new style of music that was intensely rhythmic, dissonant and unlike any before it. After the first performance, passions were so inflamed a riot broke out.
With The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky became an international celebrity. He however perceived that the music he'd written was an end, not a beginning, as it had come out of older models. His next works, L'histoire du soldat (A Soldier's Story, 1918) and the ballet Pulcinella (1919), feature a bold departure that was to become a new style in music, a style which was later named neoclassicism.
Elements of Stravinsky's neoclassical style include clarity of sound and form, avoidance of chromaticism and Romantic style, maintenance of tonal centers amidst mostly dissonant harmony, and reference to materials or forms from before the nineteenth century. Important works in Stravinsky's neoclassical style are Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920), Octet (1923) and the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927). This was followed by other breakthrough works such as Symphony of Psalms (1930), a work critics have praised as among his greatest.
Stravinsky went on to continually re-invent his music, writing in an incredible array of styles. Describing Stravinsky's amazing alacrity in a variety of styles, renowned Harvard musicologist David Hughes noted:
The astonishing variety of works produced by Stravinsky in the years between 1919 and 1950 defies generalization. Each new piece appeared to be the definitive expression of a…