The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, considered to be one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century, was born in 1882 near St. Petersburg. Stravinsky began piano lessons at the age of 9. He had little interest in a career in music, however, until 1902, when he was introduced to Rimsky-Korsakov while studying law at the University of St. Petersburg. For the next three years, he studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakov. In 1909 the ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev heard a performance of one of Stravinsky's symphonic works and commissioned him to compose three ballets for his Ballets Russes in Paris. These three pieces---The Firebird (1910), Petrouchka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913)--- established Stravinsky as the foremost musical innovator in his use of syncopated and irregular rhythms and harsh-sounding harmonies. After World War I, Stravinsky settled in France. The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Communist dictatorships that followed kept him away from his native land until 1962. In France, Stravinsky's association with Diaghilev continued until the impresario's death in 1929. During this time, the composer adopted a simpler musical style, inspired by the classical composers of the eighteenth century. One of the first indications of this interest in classical music was heard in his ballet Pulcinella (1920). Stravinsky's interest in classical forms influenced his music for over 30 years. Stravinsky moved to the United States in 1939 and became an American citizen in 1945. His continued interest in ballet resulted in an association with the Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine and his New York City Ballet company, for whom Stravinsky wrote several works. In addition, Stravinsky composed a variety of other works, including several operas, the most famous of which is The Rake's Progress (1951). During the mid-1950s, Stravinsky became interested in serialism. The use of serialism in his later works resulted in highly structured and concise compositions, such as his choral composition Threni (1958). A unique and unpredictable composer, Stravinsky never founded a specific school of composition. Nevertheless, his work has had a great influence on many modern composers.
Seferis, who was Greece's ambassador to London in 1961, has done much to integrate the unique Greek heritage with avant-garde European poetry. He is regarded as one of the greatest poets of his time. Born in Smyrna, he moved to Athens at age 14. He studied in Paris at the end of World War I and afterward joined the Greek diplomatic service. "Eminent as he is as a European poet," wrote Rex Warner, "Seferis is preeminently a Greek poet, conscious of the Greek tradition which shaped, and indeed created the tradition of Europe. Throughout the poetry of Seferis one will notice his profound consciousness of the presence of the past and its weight." His themes show a constant awareness of both the dignity and the inevitable sorrow of humanity. His images---the voyage, the search, and the ruins that become alive and yet suggest death---are universal, his treatment of them contemporary. His language has a disciplined power and simplicity. In addition to the Poems, selections from his poetry appear in Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard's Six Poets of Modern Greece. The Royal Swedish Literary Academy awarded Seferis the Nobel Prize "for his eminent lyrical writing, inspired by a deep feeling for the Hellenic world of culture."