Currently on our poll voting for the 50 greatest composers of all time Igor Stravinsky is ranked the highest among all the Modernist composers (unless one counts Debussy or Mahler among these). This is as might be expected. Stravinsky is commonly compared with Picasso as the great Modernist composer. While I agree with this comparison in the sense that both Picasso and Stravinsky were chameleons in nature, beyond that I find the comparison almost insulting to Picasso. Picasso is unquestioned as the towering figure of Modernist art. He produced a virtually unrivaled wealth of masterpieces across most of the 20th century.
My question is what is Stravinsky's reputation based upon? I agree that the early ballets (Petrouschka, The Rite, and The Firebird). To this one might add a number of other works... especially the Symphony of Psalms. But what other works are you listening too and enthralled with that leads you to believe that Stravinsky was the greatest Modernist composer? I ask this after having picked up most of Stravinsky's oeuvre last year (or thereabout). I found many of the works pleasurable... at time challenging... often witty. But they seldom ever engaged be in the manner in which the other great Modernists have been able to do so: Strauss with his operas or Last 4 Songs, Bartok with his orchestral works as well as his thorny quartets, Shostakovitch with his 2 audacious operas, his best symphonies, his cello concertos, preludes and fugues, and his harrowing quartets, Mahler and Debussy... well do we even need to discuss these? And then there's Britten and his brilliant vocal work including the operas... and even Puccini and Rachmaninoff. I am drawn to these again and again... and quite often they move me in a manner that Stravinsky never does.
So what about it? Beyond the undeniable genius of the early ballets and the Symphony of Psalms where does the genius of Stravinsky lie? What leads you to rate him above all other Modernist composers?