Eight Easy Pieces is witty, quirky piano duets; the first three designed with easy left-hand parts, the other five with easy right-hand parts. The first three were dedicated to Diaghilev, Casella (an Italian composer who was Stravinsky's contemporary and influenced by him), and Satie; Stravinsky thought that Diaghilev could manage to play the easier part. The other five pieces were written for Stravinsky's young children, to teach them both the instrument and music. Stravinsky played the Polka for Diaghilev and Casella and recalled "how amazed both men were that the composer of Le Sacre du Printemps should have produced such a piece of popcorn." Eight Easy Pieces was commissioned by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale for a benefit concert for the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library. Martins choreographed the work on three women who, in solo, duet, and trio, sparkle in a March, Valse, Polka, Andante, Espanela, Balalaika, Napolitana, and Galup.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) entered law school in 1901, at the age of nineteen. That year he also gave his first public piano recital and began studying piano and composition with Rimsky-Korsakov in St. Petersburg. He was to become, before his death, one of the greatest composers and musical innovators of the 20th century, mastering musical styles from Romanticism to Neoclassicism to Serialism. Stravinsky came to the attention of Sergei Diaghilev in 1910, who asked him to orchestrate two pieces by Chopin for the ballet Les Sylphides, and then to compose an original ballet. The result, Firebird, projected both Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and the young composer to worldwide acclaim. His ballets for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes also included Petrushka, choreographed by Michael Fokine, The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, and Apollon Musagète (Apollo), choreographed by George Balanchine. His music has been used in over thirty ballets originating with New York City Ballet from 1948 through 1992, including Danses Concertantes, Orpheus, The Cage, Agon, Monumentum pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Rubies, Symphony in Three Movements, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Concerto for Two Solo Pianos, Suite from Histoire du Soldat, Concertino, and Jeu de Cartes.