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(1891-1953).  Russian composer.  His first musical efforts were in writing piano pieces, and for the stage.  He attended the St. Petersburg Conservatory from 1904 to 1914.  For his graduation concert he broke with tradition and chose to perform his own Piano Concerto (no 1).  Diaghilev soon engaged Prokofiev to write music for the Ballet Russe, but World War I and the Russian Revolution impacted the completion of these dance works.  And yet, two of Prokofiev's most successful works emerged during this period, the Symphony no 1 "Classical" and the Concerto for Violin no 1.

During the 1920's and 30's Prokofiev primarily resided abroad. More stage works, his Symphonies no 2, 3, and 4, works for piano (including the 5th Sonata), the Piano Concert no 4, the film music "Lieutenant Kije", and the ballet "Romeo and Juliet" all date from these years.

Upon his return to Moscow in 1936, Prokofiev continued to write prolifically, including "Peter and the Wolf", and the film score for "Alexander Nevsky" (later a cantata).  He enjoyed a period of some favor, though the following war years (WW II) were harsh, and the late 1940's saw his work and that of his fellow progressive composers (Shostakovich among them) condemned by the government. Still, his output included the opera "War and Peace", his 5th and 6th Symphony, and other important works.

Following his official condemnation by the authorities, his physical and emotional health began a slow decline.  His death in 1953 went unnoticed for several weeks, being overshadowed by the death of Stalin.  

Despite the turbulent times in which he lived, Prokofiev endures as one of the most original and prolific musical figures of the 20th century. 


Other perspectives...

Sergei Prokofiev (Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev) was a Russian (Ukrainian) composer, pianist, and conductor born on April 27, 1891. His most popular works are probably the two violin concertos, the Classical Symphony, the third piano concerto, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, Peter and the Wolf, and the fifth symphony. He easily ranks among the most prolific and greatest of Twentieth Century composers. He was a precocious and talented student who learned chess at the age of 7 and started composing by age nine. His first formal composition teacher (1902) was Reinhold Gliere. In 1904, he entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatory where he studied with Rimsky-Korsakov, among others. He earned his degree in composition in 1909, but continued studying piano and conducting until 1914. All the while, he continued composing, becoming more and more audacious in his technique. His second piano concerto caused a scandal when premiered in 1913, the same year which saw him traveling to Paris and London, where he met Sergei Diaghilev (Stravinsky’s good luck charm) for whom he later wrote some ballet music. In 1918, Prokofiev came to the U.S. (by way of Japan) to initiate a tour and the production of his opera The Love for Three Oranges. Due to circumstances beyond his control, the opera production never materialized and he henceforth returned to Paris. The premier of his ballet Chout in 1921 prompted Stravinsky and Ravel to acknowledge Prokofiev as a very great composer. By this time, he was already re-working his third piano concerto. This year also, he returned to the U.S. to conduct the delayed premiere of The Love for Three Oranges in Chicago. Between 1918 and 1936, Prokofiev toured extensively while using Paris as his main base of operations. 1922 saw him relocated to Bavaria simply to continue focusing on composing. In 1923, he married and returned to Paris. Prokofiev returned to Russia for good in 1935. There are a few recordings of Prokofiev’s playing still in existence and, of course, nearly his entire compositional output has been recorded by various artists on many different labels. His death - in terms of publicity - was eclipsed by that of Soviet politician Joseph Stalin, who died on the same day, March 5, 1953.
This biography was most recently edited by...
steven - 2 Nov 2010
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steven - 1 Nov 2010
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violinhunter - 27 Jun 2009
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