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'Enfants Terribles'

Classical Academy | Composers | Romantic Period 


It's striking just how many Romantic and Modern composers fit the 'enfant terrible' mould. Prokofiev, the youngest student ever to be admitted to the Conservatory in St Petersburg, was self-confident, critical of his fellow pupils and disapproving of criticism he received from his teachers. No wonder, then, that this arrogance and propensity to shock (both with his behaviour and his compositional style) earned him the label 'enfant terrible' (a reputation that he relished).


Stravinsky broke all the rules of modern harmony with his Rite of Spring earning him the title of the 'enfant terrible' of the modern age. The piece shocked theatre goers and shook the old order, with its new and disturbing musical passages and its seemingly outrageous morality.


Ernst Krenek, professional violinist turned composer, became another modern era 'enfant terrible' after the premier of his String Quartet no. 1 in 1921 with its radical atonality. Then there's Argentina's Mauricio Kagel, the country's most famous composer in exile. And who can forget the troublesome composers of the preceding generation, Richard Wagner and Hugo Wolf.


Enjoy a selection of breaking-the-mould music by these masterful 'enfants terribles'.