French composer (1875 - 1937), best known for his Bolero, despite his considering it a minor piece of work and joking that it had "no music in it".
He's a cornerstone in the Impressionist movement of music, along with his fellow composer, Claude Debussy. Though both of them never considered themselves as Impressionists, and were actually offended by the label. Nevertheless, his music is considered to contain very colourful tones and sounds, flows very freely, and is very atmospheric, like a piece of Impressionist painting. He also wrote other pieces that are considered best as Neo-Classical. Regardless, he's considered as one of the major figures of early 20th century classical music, and is widely popular among classical music listeners for his lush and beautiful, yet controlled musical landscapes.
Notable pieces include Jeux d'eau, Pavane pour une infante défunte, Le Tombeau de Couperin, Piano Concerto in G Major... He wasn't quite prolific - but was able to build an international fame due to the fact that most of his music was widely acclaimed, both by serious critics and popular listeners. One of the last great composers faithful to the old classical style, before everything classical becomes either atonal, serial or minimalist. He was also a great support of Jazz, considering it to be worthy of being an artful musical genre, and the national music of the United States. After the death of Debussy, he was no doubt the greatest French composer of his period.
He was a fairly reticent individual, like his music. Interestingly known to have no (known) romantic or sexual relationships, much to the composer's chagrin and loneliness, although he was surrounded by a rather large circle of faithful friends and followers, who would later support his last 4 years when he was affected by a neurological illness that prevented him from playing or writing any other music. After a failed operation, he died after falling into a coma. His death was greatly and unanimously grieved in the artistic circle - a year after his death, the Revue Musicale published a special edition containing around a hundred articles paying homage to the late composer.
He was also an accomplished orchestrator - arguably one of the best in the history of western music; his orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's suite "Pictures at an Exhibition" is arguably better known than the piano-only original.