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Sergei Sergeevich Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev, USSR Pianist, composer, conductor.

Background

  • Prokofiev, Sergei was born on April 23, 1891 in Sontsovka, near Ekaterinoslav.

  • Education

    • Graduated from the Petersburg Conservatory in composition, 1909. Pupil of A. Liadov and N. Rimskii-Korsakov. Graduated also in piano and conducting.

    Career

    • Began composing music at the age of 5, and at 9 wrote his first opera. Won the Anton Rubinstein Prize in 1914, playing his first piano concerto. Achieved fame as a pianist.

      From 1918 to 1933, lived abroad, in London, the USA and Paris. Returned to Moscow in 1934. Composed operas such as The Love of Three Oranges, 1919, War and Peace, 1941, revised, 1952, several ballets for Diaghilev (Stal'noi Skok, L. Massin, 1927), symphonies including the Classical Symphony, the Scythian Suite, music for films such as Lieutenant Kizhe, 1934, and Aleksandr Nevskii (dir.

      S. Eisenstein, 1938), piano concertos, songs and cantatas (e.g. that for the 29th anniversary of the October Revolution, 1946), Peter and the Wolf, 1936, a fairy tale, etc. In Stalin’s USSR, was forced to contribute to the musical propaganda of the time: the oratorio Na Strazhe Mira etc. In 1948, Zhdanov attacked him for formalism and other’bourgeois sins’.

      His works were marked by joie de vivre, embodied primitive folk motives, and showed the influence of futurism, structuralism and urbanism. He chose for his subjects Slavonic myths arranged for the stage, expressing the barbarism of primitive Russia. The harsh harmonies of his music were brought into relief by the roughness of the rhythms (themes from the Russian Tales of A. Afanas’ev, 1920, arranged for the stage by Prokofiev and Sergei Diaghilev).

      Relied on the grotesque for effects of folk comedy (Stal'noi Skok etc). Besides having recourse to the grotesque and satirical, introduced an element of mystery and fantasy (The Stone Flower, 1949). He blended the realistic and fantastic elements while stressing Russian folk motives.

      Added to the traditions of classical ballet music the influence of modern symphonic music. This became apparent in the new production of The Stone Flower, 1953, staged in 1954, where the ballet came close to pure drama. His music influenced a generation of musicians all over the world and also the art of Russian dancers such as Galina Ulanova and V. Preobrazhenskii.

      In 1945, appeared as conductor in Moscow for the last time. He was already ill, and retired to the village of Nikolina Gora near Zvenigorod.
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    Born April 23, 1891
    Died March 5, 1953
    (aged 61)
    Nationality