Sergei Prokofiev

1891 - 1953

Russian

Summary

Sergei Prokofiev received his first piano instruction from his mother, who also encouraged composing. After studies with Gliere, he passed the entrance examination at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. There he studied with Rimsky-Korsakov and Liadov.

He formed a lasting relationship with Sergei Diaghilev, who arranged his first performance outside Russia (Rome, 1915). The opera The Love of the Three Oranges and the Third Piano Concerto were premiered in Chicago in 1921. In Paris, where Prokofiev settled, Diaghilev produced his ballets during the years 1921-32.

After returning to Russia, he composed Peter and the Wolf, the opera War and Peace, and the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella.

He died in 1953.

Biography

Sergei Prokofiev was born in 1891 at a rural estate in what is now Ukraine. His father was an engineer, his mother a pianist who gave her son his first piano lessons and transcribed his earliest compositions. After lessons with the composer and pianist Reinhold Gliére, Prokofiev was admitted to the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1904 to study piano, composition, and conducting.

In 1911, music critic Alexander Ossovsky helped Prokofiev obtain the offer of a contract from P. Jurgenson, the music publishing house of Tchaikovsky. He travelled to Paris and London where he first encountered Sergei Diaghilev, the ballet impresario, who commissioned Chout (The Buffoon). World War I led Prokofiev to return to studies at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, but with revolutions shaking Russia in 1917, he departed for the US.

There he gave performances and accepted a commission from Chicago Opera to write The Love for Three Oranges; he conducted its premiere in 1921. He returned to Europe to compose before undertaking a concert tour in the Soviet Union, where his opera The Love for Three Oranges was produced at the Mariinsky Theatre. By 1929 his final ballet for Diaghilev, The Prodigal Son, premiered in Paris with George Balanchine's choreography.

His performances in the US and Europe in the early 1930s were hampered by the Depression, as were productions of ballets and operas. Returning to the Soviet Union, he composed his first film music, Lieutenant Kijé. From the Kirov in Leningrad (formerly the Mariinsky in Saint Petersburg), he received a commission for the ballet Romeo and Juliet. Before its premiere, the production was moved to the Bolshoi in Moscow, and in 1936, after Prokofiev had moved to the city, he wrote one of his most popular works, Peter and the Wolf. By 1938, he had completed the score to Sergei Eisenstein's film, Alexander Nevsky; Prokofiev later reworked the music into a successful concert cantata.

During World War II, Prokofiev embarked on composing an opera from Tolstoy's War and Peace, as well as the ballet Cinderella, his fifth symphony, and another film with Eisenstein, Ivan the Terrible.

The end of the war brought changes to government policies. In 1948, the Soviet Union's principal executive committee, the Politburo, denounced Prokofiev, along with Shostakovich, Khachaturian, Popov, and Myaskovsky, for their "formalism" — they ignored the "basic principles of classical music" in favor of "cacophony." As a result, some of Prokofiev's recent works were banned. Performers cautiously avoided programming his other pieces. He chose to appear in public less but continued to compose. In 1950, a young Mstislav Rostropovich premiered Prokofiev's Cello Sonata in C. Rostropovich also premiered the reworked Symphony-Concerto in 1952, the same year as the premiere of his seventh symphony, his last.

In declining health, Prokofiev died on March 5, 1953.

 

News

Performances

7th November 2021

PERFORMERS
Musiciens de La Ferme du Biéreau
LOCATION
Forum, Liège, Belgium

9th November 2021

PERFORMERS
Orchestre de Paris
CONDUCTOR
Stephanie Childress
LOCATION
Philharmonie, Paris, France

10th November 2021

PERFORMERS
Orchestre de Paris
CONDUCTOR
Stephanie Childress
LOCATION
Philharmonie, Paris, France

11th November 2021

PERFORMERS
Orchestre de Paris
CONDUCTOR
Stephanie Childress
LOCATION
Philharmonie, Paris, France

13th November 2021

PERFORMERS
Boston Conservatory Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Bruce Hangen
LOCATION
GBH Studios, Boston, MA, United States of America

Features

  • Russian Masters: Prokofiev Gems and Rarities
    • Russian Masters: Prokofiev Gems and Rarities
    • G. Schirmer is proud to present a curated Spotify playlist of works from the Prokofiev catalog, which looks beyond the ballets to lesser-known orchestra pieces, chamber music, and solo works, all ripe for dance project consideration.

Photos

Discography