Sergei Prokofiev
Overview
 
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (Russian: Серге́й Серге́евич Проко́фьев) (23 April 1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. His best-known works include the March from Love for Three Oranges, the suite Lieutenant Kijé
Lieutenant Kijé (Prokofiev)
Lieutenant Kijé is the score composed by Sergei Prokofiev for the 1934 Soviet film Lieutenant Kijé directed by Aleksandr Faintsimmer based on the novel of the same title by Yury Tynyanov.-Suite from Lieutenant Kijé:...

, the ballet Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev)
Romeo and Juliet is a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev based on William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It is one of the most enduringly popular ballets...

 - from which "Dance of the Knights" is taken - and Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf , Op. 67, is a composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 in the USSR. It is a children's story , spoken by a narrator accompanied by the orchestra....

. He also composed amongst many other works five piano concertos, nine completed piano sonatas and seven symphonies.
Prokofiev was born in Sontsovka (now Krasne in the Donetsk Oblast
Donetsk Oblast
Donetsk Oblast is an oblast of eastern Ukraine. Its administrative center is Donetsk. Historically, the province is an important part of the Donbas region...

 of Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

), an isolated rural estate in the Yekaterinoslav Governorate
Yekaterinoslav Governorate
The Yekaterinoslav Governorate or Government of Yekaterinoslav was a governorate in the Russian Empire. Its capital was the city of Yekaterinoslav .-Administrative divisions:...

 of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

.
Encyclopedia
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (Russian: Серге́й Серге́евич Проко́фьев) (23 April 1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. His best-known works include the March from Love for Three Oranges, the suite Lieutenant Kijé
Lieutenant Kijé (Prokofiev)
Lieutenant Kijé is the score composed by Sergei Prokofiev for the 1934 Soviet film Lieutenant Kijé directed by Aleksandr Faintsimmer based on the novel of the same title by Yury Tynyanov.-Suite from Lieutenant Kijé:...

, the ballet Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev)
Romeo and Juliet is a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev based on William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It is one of the most enduringly popular ballets...

 - from which "Dance of the Knights" is taken - and Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf , Op. 67, is a composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 in the USSR. It is a children's story , spoken by a narrator accompanied by the orchestra....

. He also composed amongst many other works five piano concertos, nine completed piano sonatas and seven symphonies.

Childhood compositions

Prokofiev was born in Sontsovka (now Krasne in the Donetsk Oblast
Donetsk Oblast
Donetsk Oblast is an oblast of eastern Ukraine. Its administrative center is Donetsk. Historically, the province is an important part of the Donbas region...

 of Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

), an isolated rural estate in the Yekaterinoslav Governorate
Yekaterinoslav Governorate
The Yekaterinoslav Governorate or Government of Yekaterinoslav was a governorate in the Russian Empire. Its capital was the city of Yekaterinoslav .-Administrative divisions:...

 of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. He displayed precocious musical abilities by age five. His first piano composition to be written down (by his mother), an 'Indian Gallop', was in the Lydian mode
Lydian mode
The Lydian musical scale is a rising pattern of pitches comprising three whole tones, a semitone, two more whole tones, and a final semitone. This sequence of pitches roughly describes the fifth of the eight Gregorian modes, known as Mode V or the authentic mode on F, theoretically using B but in...

 (a major scale with a raised 4th scale degree) as the young Prokofiev felt 'reluctance to tackle the black notes'. By seven, he had also learned to play chess
Chess
Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

. Much like music, chess would remain a passion, and he became acquainted with world chess champions José Raúl Capablanca
José Raúl Capablanca
José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera was a Cuban chess player who was world chess champion from 1921 to 1927. One of the greatest players of all time, he was renowned for his exceptional endgame skill and speed of play...

 and Mikhail Botvinnik
Mikhail Botvinnik
Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik, Ph.D. was a Soviet and Russian International Grandmaster and three-time World Chess Champion. Working as an electrical engineer and computer scientist at the same time, he was one of the very few famous chess players who achieved distinction in another career while...

. At age nine he was composing his first opera, The Giant
The Giant (opera)
The Giant is an opera in three acts by Sergei Prokofiev. The 12 page work was written for performance by the nine-year-old composer's family.-Origins:...

, as well as an overture
Overture
Overture in music is the term originally applied to the instrumental introduction to an opera...

 and miscellaneous pieces.

Formal education and controversial early works

In 1902, Prokofiev's mother met Sergei Taneyev
Sergei Taneyev
Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev , was a Russian composer, pianist, teacher of composition, music theorist and author.-Life:...

, director of the Moscow Conservatory
Moscow Conservatory
The Moscow Conservatory is a higher musical education institution in Moscow, and the second oldest conservatory in Russia after St. Petersburg Conservatory. Along with the St...

, who initially suggested that Prokofiev should start lessons in piano and composition with Alexander Goldenweiser
Alexander Borisovich Goldenweiser
Alexander Borisovich Goldenweiser was a Russian pianist, teacher, composer and public figure.Goldenweiser was born in Kishinev, Bessarabia and studied at the Moscow Conservatory under Sergei Taneyev and Vassily Safonoff, winning the Gold Medal for Piano upon his graduation in 1897...

. When Taneyev was unable to arrange this, he instead arranged for composer and pianist Reinhold Glière
Reinhold Glière
Reinhold Moritzevich Glière was a Russian and Soviet composer of German–Polish descent.- Biography :Glière was born in Kiev, Ukraine...

 to spend the summer of 1902 in Sontsovka teaching Prokofiev. This first series of lessons culminated, at the 11-year-old Prokofiev's insistence, with the budding composer making his first attempt to write a symphony. Glière subsequently revisited Sontsovka the following summer to give further tuition. When decades later Prokofiev wrote about his lessons with Glière, he gave due credit to Glière's sympathetic qualities as a teacher but complained that Glière had introduced him to "square" phrase structure and conventional modulations which he subsequently had to unlearn. Nonetheless, equipped with the necessary theoretical tools, Prokofiev started experimenting with dissonant harmonies and unusual time signatures in a series of short piano pieces which he called "ditties" (after the so-called "song form"—more accurately ternary form
Ternary form
Ternary form, sometimes called song form, is a three-part musical form, usually schematicized as A-B-A. The first and third parts are musically identical, or very nearly so, while the second part in some way provides a contrast with them...

—they were based on), laying the basis for his own musical style.

After a while, Prokofiev's mother felt that the isolation in Sontsovka was restricting his further musical development, yet his parents hesitated over starting their son on a musical career at such an early age. Then in 1904, while Prokofiev and his mother were in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 to explore the possibility of their moving there for his education, they were introduced to composer Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was a Russian composer of the late Russian Romantic period, music teacher and conductor...

, a professor at the Conservatory. Glazunov agreed to see Prokofiev and his music, and was so impressed that he urged Prokofiev's mother that her son apply to the Saint Petersburg Conservatory
Saint Petersburg Conservatory
The N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory is a music school in Saint Petersburg. In 2004, the conservatory had around 275 faculty members and 1,400 students.-History:...

. By this point Prokofiev had composed two more operas, Desert Islands and The Feast during the Plague, and was working on his fourth, Undine. He passed the introductory tests and entered the Conservatory that same year.

Several years younger than most of his classmates, he was viewed as eccentric and arrogant, and he often expressed dissatisfaction with much of the education, which he found boring. During this period he studied under, among others, Anatoly Lyadov, Nikolai Tcherepnin
Nikolai Tcherepnin
Nikolai Nikolayevich Tcherepnin was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He was born in Saint Petersburg and studied under Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory...

 and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five.The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie, refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César...

 (though when Rimsky-Korsakov died in 1908, Prokofiev noted that he had only studied orchestration with him 'after a fashion'—that is, he was just one of many students in a heavily attended class—and regretted that he otherwise 'never had the opportunity to study with him'). He also shared classes with the composers Boris Asafyev and Nikolai Myaskovsky
Nikolai Myaskovsky
Nikolai Yakovlevich Myaskovsky was a Russian and Soviet composer. He is sometimes referred to as the "father of the Soviet symphony".-Early years and first important works:...

, the latter becoming a relatively close and life-long friend.

As a member of the Saint Petersburg music scene, Prokofiev developed a reputation as a musical rebel, while getting praise for his original compositions, which he would perform himself on the piano. In 1909, he graduated from his class in composition with unimpressive marks. He continued at the Conservatory, studying piano under Anna Yesipova
Anna Yesipova
Anna Yesipova was a prominent Russian pianist. Her name is cited variously as Anna Esipova; Anna or Annette Essipova; Anna, Annette or Annetta Essipoff; Annette von Essipow; Anna Jessipowa.Yesipova was one of Teodor Leszetycki's most brilliant pupils...

 and conducting under Nikolai Tcherepnin
Nikolai Tcherepnin
Nikolai Nikolayevich Tcherepnin was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He was born in Saint Petersburg and studied under Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory...

.

In 1910, Prokofiev's father died and Sergei's financial support ceased. Fortunately he had started making a name for himself as a composer, although he frequently caused scandals with his forward-looking works. The Sarcasms for piano, Op. 17 (1912), for example, make extensive use of polytonality, and Etudes, Op. 2 (1909) and Four Pieces, Op. 4 (1908) are highly chromatic and dissonant works. He composed his first two piano concerto
Piano concerto
A piano concerto is a concerto written for piano and orchestra.See also harpsichord concerto; some of these works are occasionally played on piano...

s around this time, the latter of which caused a scandal at its premiere (23 August 1913, Pavlovsk). According to one account, the audience left the hall with exclamations of "'To hell with this futuristic music! The cats on the roof make better music!'", but the modernists were in rapture.

In 1911, help arrived from renowned Russian musicologist and critic
Music criticism
See also Music journalism for reporting on classical and popular music in the media.The Oxford Companion to Music defines music criticism as 'the intellectual activity of formulating judgments on the value and degree of excellence of individual works of music, or whole groups or genres'. In this...

 Alexander Ossovsky
Alexander Ossovsky
Alexander Vyacheslavovich Ossovsky , 1871 –July 31, 1957) was a renowned Russian musical writer, critic and musicologist, professor at Saint Petersburg Conservatory, pupil of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and friend of Sergei Rachmaninoff, Alexander Siloti and Nikolai...

, who wrote a supportive letter to music publisher Boris P. Jurgenson, thus a contract was offered to the composer. Prokofiev made his first foreign trip in 1913, travelling to Paris and London where he first encountered Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev , usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.-Early life and career:...

's Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
The Ballets Russes was an itinerant ballet company from Russia which performed between 1909 and 1929 in many countries. Directed by Sergei Diaghilev, it is regarded as the greatest ballet company of the 20th century. Many of its dancers originated from the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg...

.

The first ballets

In 1914, Prokofiev finished his career at the Conservatory by entering the so-called 'battle of the pianos', a competition open to the five best piano students for which the prize was a Schreder grand piano: Prokofiev won by performing his own Piano Concerto No. 1
Piano Concerto No. 1 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev set about composing his Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat major, Op. 10 in 1911 and finished it in 1912. A one-movement concerto, it is the shortest of his five complete piano concertos, lasting only around a quarter of an hour.- Structure :...

. Soon afterwards, he journeyed to London where he made contact with the impresario Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev , usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.-Early life and career:...

. Diaghilev commissioned Prokofiev's first ballet, Ala and Lolli, but rejected the work in progress when Prokofiev brought it to him in Italy in 1915. Diaghilev then commissioned Prokofiev to compose the ballet Chout
Chout
Chout, Op. 21 , is the usual English-language title of a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev, written in two versions between 1915 and 1921. It is sometimes known as "The Tale of the Buffoon", or simply "The Buffoon"...

 (The Fool, the original Russian-language full title was Сказка про шута, семерых шутов перешутившего (Skazka pro shuta, semerykh shutov pereshutivshavo), meaning "The Tale of the Buffoon who Outwits Seven Other Buffoons"). Under Diaghilev's guidance, Prokofiev chose his subject from a collection of folktales by the ethnographer Alexander Afanasyev
Alexander Afanasyev
Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev was a Russian folklorist who recorded and published over 600 Russian folktales and fairytales, by far the largest folktale collection by any one man in the world...

; the story, concerning a buffoon and a series of confidence tricks, had been previously suggested to Diaghilev by Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 as a possible subject for a ballet, and Diaghilev and his choreographer Léonide Massine helped Prokofiev to shape this into a ballet scenario. Prokofiev's inexperience in ballet led him to revise the work extensively in the 1920s, following Diaghilev's detailed critique, prior to its first production. The ballet's premiere in Paris on 17 May 1921 was a huge success and was greeted with great admiration by an audience that included Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau
Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau was a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker. His circle of associates, friends and lovers included Kenneth Anger, Pablo Picasso, Jean Hugo, Jean Marais, Henri Bernstein, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Erik Satie, María...

, Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 and Maurice Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

. Stravinsky called the ballet "the single piece of modern music he could listen to with pleasure," while Ravel called it "a work of genius."

First World War and Revolution

During World War I, Prokofiev returned to the Conservatory. He studied organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

 in order to avoid conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

. He composed The Gambler
The Gambler (Prokofiev)
The Gambler is an opera in four acts by Sergei Prokofiev to a Russian libretto by the composer, based on the story of the same name by Fyodor Dostoyevsky....

 based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel of the same name
The Gambler (novel)
The Gambler is a short novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky about a young tutor in the employment of a formerly wealthy Russian general. The novella reflects Dostoyevsky's own addiction to roulette, which was in more ways than one the inspiration for the book: Dostoyevsky completed the novella under a...

, but rehearsals were plagued by problems and the scheduled 1917 première had to be canceled because of the February Revolution
February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...

. In the summer of that year, Prokofiev composed his first symphony
Symphony No. 1 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev began work on his Symphony No. 1 in D major in 1916, but wrote most of it in 1917, finishing work on September 10. It is written in loose imitation of the style of Haydn , and is widely known as the Classical Symphony, a name given to it by the composer...

, the Classical. This was his own name for the symphony, which was written in the style that, according to Prokofiev, Joseph Haydn
Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn , known as Joseph Haydn , was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms...

 would have used if he had been alive at the time. It is more or less classical in style but incorporates more modern musical elements (see Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism (music)
Neoclassicism in music was a twentieth-century trend, particularly current in the period between the two World Wars, in which composers sought to return to aesthetic precepts associated with the broadly defined concept of "classicism", namely order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotional restraint...

). This symphony was also an exact contemporary of Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major
Violin Concerto No. 1 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev began his Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, opus 19, as a concertino in 1915 but soon abandoned it to work on his opera The Gambler. He returned to the concerto in the summer of 1917. It premiered on October 18, 1923 at the Paris Opera with Marcel Darrieux playing the violin part...

, Op. 19, which was scheduled to premiere in November 1917. The first performances of both works had to wait until 21 April 1918 and 18 October 1923, respectively. He stayed briefly with his mother in Kislovodsk
Kislovodsk
Kislovodsk is a city in Stavropol Krai, Russia, which lies in the North Caucasian region of the country, between the Black and Caspian Seas. The closest airport is located in the city of Mineralnye Vody. Population:...

 in the Caucasus. Worried about the enemy capturing Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

, he returned in 1918. By then he was determined to leave Russia, at least temporarily. He saw no room for his experimental music and, in May, he headed for the USA. Before leaving, he developed acquaintances with senior Bolsheviks including Anatoly Lunacharsky, the People's Commissar for Education, who told him: "You are a revolutionary in music, we are revolutionaries in life. We ought to work together. But if you want to go to America I shall not stand in your way."

Life abroad

Arriving in San Francisco after having been released from questioning by immigration on Angel Island on 11 August 1918, Prokofiev was soon compared to other famous Russian exiles (such as Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music...

), and he started out successfully with a solo concert in New York, leading to several further engagements. He also received a contract for the production of his new opera The Love for Three Oranges but, due to illness and the death of the director, the premiere was postponed. This was another example of Prokofiev's bad luck in operatic matters. The failure also cost him his American solo career, since the opera took too much time and effort. He soon found himself in financial difficulties, and, in April 1920, he left for Paris, not wanting to return to Russia as a failure.

Paris was better prepared for Prokofiev's musical style. He reaffirmed his contacts with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
The Ballets Russes was an itinerant ballet company from Russia which performed between 1909 and 1929 in many countries. Directed by Sergei Diaghilev, it is regarded as the greatest ballet company of the 20th century. Many of its dancers originated from the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg...

. He also returned to some of his older, unfinished works, such as the Third Piano Concerto
Piano Concerto No. 3 (Prokofiev)
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 is the best-known concerto by Sergei Prokofiev. It was completed in 1921 using sketches first started in 1913.-Composition and performances:...

. The Love for Three Oranges finally premièred in Chicago in December 1921, under the composer's baton.

In March 1922, Prokofiev moved with his mother to the town of Ettal
Ettal
Ettal is a German municipality in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Bavaria.-Geography:Ettal is situated in the Oberland area in the Graswangtal between the Loisachtal and Ammertal, approx. 10 km north of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the district capital, and approx...

 in the Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

n Alps for over a year so he could concentrate on composing. Most of his time was spent on an opera project, The Fiery Angel, based on the novel The Fiery Angel
The Fiery Angel (novel)
The Fiery Angel is a novel by Valery Bryusov of 1908. Set in sixteenth century Germany it depicts a love-triangle between Renata, a passionate young woman, Ruprecht,a knight and Madiel, the fiery Angel. The novel tells the story of Ruprecht's attempts to win the love of Renata whose spiritual...

 by Valery Bryusov
Valery Bryusov
Valery Yakovlevich Bryusov was a Russian poet, prose writer, dramatist, translator, critic and historian. He was one of the principal members of the Russian Symbolist movement.-Biography:...

. By this time his later music had acquired a following in Russia, and he received invitations to return there, but he decided to stay in Europe. In 1923, he married the Spanish singer Lina Llubera (1897–1989), before moving back to Paris.

There, several of his works (for example the Second Symphony
Symphony No. 2 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Symphony No. 2 in D minor in Paris in 1924-5, during what he called "nine months of frenzied toil". He characterized this symphony as a work of "iron and steel".- Structure :...

) were performed, but critical reception was lukewarm. However the Symphony appeared to prompt Diaghilev to commission Le Pas d'acier
Le Pas d'acier (Prokofiev)
Le pas d'acier is a ballet in two scenes, and also suite of music based on the ballet score , by Sergei Prokofiev.-History:...

 (The Steel Step), a 'modernist' ballet score intended to portray the industrialisation of the Soviet Union. It was enthusiastically received by Parisian audiences and critics.

Prokofiev and Stravinsky restored their friendship, though Prokofiev did not particularly like Stravinsky's later works; it has been suggested that his use of text from Stravinsky's A Symphony of Psalms
Symphony of Psalms
The Symphony of Psalms by Igor Stravinsky was written in 1930 and was commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This piece is a three-movement choral symphony and was composed during Stravinsky's neoclassical period. The symphony derives...

 to characterise the invading Teutonic knights in the film score for Eisenstein's
Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein , né Eizenshtein, was a pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist, often considered to be the "Father of Montage"...

 Alexander Nevsky
Alexander Nevsky (Prokofiev)
Alexander Nevsky is the score for the 1938 Sergei Eisenstein film Alexander Nevsky, composed by Sergei Prokofiev. He later rearranged the music in the form of a cantata for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra...

 (1938) was intended as an attack on Stravinsky's musical idiom. However, Stravinsky himself described Prokofiev as the greatest Russian composer of his day, after himself.

Around 1927, the virtuoso's situation brightened; he had exciting commissions from Diaghilev and made concert tours in Russia; in addition, he enjoyed a very successful staging of The Love for Three Oranges in Leningrad (as Saint Petersburg was then known). Two older operas (one of them The Gambler) played in Europe and in 1928 Prokofiev produced his Third Symphony
Symphony No. 3 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Symphony No. 3 in C minor in 1928.-Background:The music derives from Prokofiev's opera The Fiery Angel. This opera had been accepted for performance in the 1927-28 season at the Berlin State Opera by Bruno Walter, but this production never materialised; in fact, the...

, which was broadly based on his unperformed opera The Fiery Angel. The conductor Sergei Koussevitzky characterized the Third as "the greatest symphony since Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

's Sixth
Symphony No. 6 (Tchaikovsky)
The Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, Pathétique is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's final completed symphony, written between February and the end of August 1893. The composer led the first performance in Saint Petersburg on 16/28 October of that year, nine days before his death...

."

During 1928–29 Prokofiev composed what was to be the last ballet for Diaghilev, The Prodigal Son, which was staged on 21 May 1929 in Paris with Serge Lifar
Serge Lifar
Serge Lifar ; 15 December 1986) was a French ballet dancer and choreographer of Ukrainian origin, famous as one of the greatest male ballet dancers of the 20th century.-Biography:Lifar was born in Kiev, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire...

 in the title role. Diaghilev died only months later.

In 1929, Prokofiev wrote the Divertimento, Op. 43 and revised his Sinfonietta
Sinfonietta (Prokofiev)
Sinfonietta in A major is a composition by Sergei Prokofiev.-Background:Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Sinfonietta in A major, Op. 5, in 1909 and dedicated it to Nikolai Tcherepnin, his conducting professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory....

, Op. 5/48, a work started in his days at the Conservatory. Prokofiev wrote in his autobiography that he could never understand why the Sinfonietta was so rarely performed, whereas the "Classical" Symphony was played everywhere. Later in this year, however, he slightly injured his hands in a car crash, which prevented him from performing in Moscow, but in turn permitted him to enjoy contemporary Russian music. After his hands healed, he toured the United States successfully, propped up by his recent European success. This, in turn, propelled him on another tour through Europe.

In 1930 Prokofiev began his first non-Diaghilev ballet On the Dnieper
On the Dnieper (Prokofiev)
On the Dnieper, Op. 51, also known by its French language title Sur le Borysthène , is the fourth ballet written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1930.-Background:...

, Op. 51, a work commissioned by Serge Lifar
Serge Lifar
Serge Lifar ; 15 December 1986) was a French ballet dancer and choreographer of Ukrainian origin, famous as one of the greatest male ballet dancers of the 20th century.-Biography:Lifar was born in Kiev, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire...

, who had been appointed maitre de ballet at the Paris Opéra
Paris Opera
The Paris Opera is the primary opera company of Paris, France. It was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Académie d'Opéra and shortly thereafter was placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully and renamed the Académie Royale de Musique...

. In 1931 and 1932 he completed his fourth
Piano Concerto No. 4 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 4 in B-flat major for the left hand, Op. 53, was commissioned by the one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein and completed in 1931....

 and fifth
Piano Concerto No. 5 (Prokofiev)
The last complete piano concerto by Sergei Prokofiev, Piano Concerto No. 5 in G major, dates from 1932.-Background:Prokofiev's last piano concerto dates from 1932, a year after he finished the fourth piano concerto, whose solo part is for left hand only...

 piano concertos. The following year saw the completion of the Symphonic Song
Symphonic Song (Prokofiev)
-Analysis:Symphonic Song is a work demonstrating Prokofiev's transition from Parisian modernism to Soviet lyricism. Prokofiev had described of it as "a serious piece of work, and I took great care in choosing the thematic material...

, Op. 57, a darkly scored piece in one movement.

In the early 1930s, Prokofiev was starting to long for Russia again; he moved more and more of his premieres and commissions to his home country from Paris. One such was Lieutenant Kijé
Lieutenant Kijé (Prokofiev)
Lieutenant Kijé is the score composed by Sergei Prokofiev for the 1934 Soviet film Lieutenant Kijé directed by Aleksandr Faintsimmer based on the novel of the same title by Yury Tynyanov.-Suite from Lieutenant Kijé:...

, which was commissioned as the score to a Soviet film
Lieutenant Kijé (film)
Lieutenant Kijé is a 1934 Soviet comedy film directed by Aleksandr Faintsimmer based on the novel of the same title by Yury Tynyanov. The film was released in the USA as The Czar Wants to Sleep.Sergei Prokofiev composed the score.-Cast:...

. Another commission, from the Kirov Theater in Leningrad, was the ballet Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev)
Romeo and Juliet is a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev based on William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It is one of the most enduringly popular ballets...

. Today, this is one of Prokofiev's best-known works, and it contains some of the most inspired and poignant passages in his body of work. However, the ballet's original happy ending (contrary to Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

), caused the premiere to be postponed for several years.

In this period he began to practice the religion and teachings of Christian Science
Christian Science
Christian Science is a system of thought and practice derived from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and the Bible. It is practiced by members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist as well as some others who are nonmembers. Its central texts are the Bible and the Christian Science textbook,...

, to which, according to biographer Simon Morrison, he remained faithful for the rest of his life.

Return to the Soviet Union

In 1935, Prokofiev returned permanently to the Soviet Union; his family followed a year later. At this time, the official Soviet policy towards music changed; a special bureau, the "Composers' Union", was established in order to keep track of the artists and their doings. By limiting outside influences, these policies would gradually cause almost complete isolation of Soviet composers from the rest of the world. Both Prokofiev and Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

 came under particular scrutiny for "formalist tendencies." Forced to adapt to the new circumstances (whatever misgivings he had about them in private), Prokofiev wrote a series of "mass songs" (Opp. 66, 79, 89), using the lyrics of officially approved Soviet poets. At the same time Prokofiev also composed music for children (Three Songs for Children and Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf , Op. 67, is a composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 in the USSR. It is a children's story , spoken by a narrator accompanied by the orchestra....

, among others) as well as the gigantic Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, which was banned from performance and had to wait until May 1966 for a partial premiere.

In 1938, Prokofiev collaborated with Eisenstein on the historical epic Alexander Nevsky
Alexander Nevsky (film)
Alexander Nevsky is a 1938 historical drama film directed by Sergei Eisenstein, in association with Dmitri Vasilyev and a script co-written with Pyotr Pavlenko, who were assigned to ensure Eisenstein did not stray into "formalism" and to facilitate shooting on a reasonable timetable...

. For this he composed some of his most inventive and dramatic music. Although the film had a very poor sound recording, Prokofiev adapted much of his score into a large-scale cantata
Cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

 for mezzo-soprano
Mezzo-soprano
A mezzo-soprano is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above...

, orchestra and chorus, which was extensively performed and recorded. In the wake of Alexander Nevskys success, Prokofiev composed his first Soviet opera Semyon Kotko, which was intended to be produced by the director Vsevolod Meyerhold
Vsevolod Meyerhold
Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold was a great Russian and Soviet theatre director, actor and theatrical producer. His provocative experiments dealing with physical being and symbolism in an unconventional theatre setting made him one of the seminal forces in modern international theatre.-Early...

. However the première of the opera was postponed because Meyerhold was arrested on 20 June 1939 by the NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 (Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's Secret Police), and shot on 2 February 1940. Only months after Meyerhold's arrest, Prokofiev was 'invited' to compose Zdravitsa
Zdravitsa (Prokofiev)
Zdravitsa , Op. 85, is a cantata written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1939.-Background:Ever since Prokofiev returned to the Soviet Union, he was viewed as a suspect in the eyes of the Stalinist regime and was under scrutiny. Numerous Soviet artists had already been arrested or even executed for creating...

 (literally translated 'Cheers!', but more often given the English title Hail to Stalin) (Op. 85) to celebrate Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's 60th birthday.

Later in 1939, Prokofiev composed his Piano Sonatas Nos. 6, 7, and 8, Opp. 82–84, widely known today as the "War Sonatas." Premiered respectively by Prokofiev (No. 6: 8 April 1940), Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter was a Soviet pianist well known for the depth of his interpretations, virtuoso technique, and vast repertoire. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Childhood:...

 (No. 7: Moscow, 18 January 1943) and Emil Gilels
Emil Gilels
Emil Grigoryevich Gilels was a Soviet pianist, widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.His last name is sometimes transliterated Hilels.-Biography:...

 (No. 8: Moscow, 30 December 1944), they were subsequently championed in particular by Richter. Biographer Daniel Jaffé argued that Prokofiev, "having forced himself to compose a cheerful evocation of the nirvana
Nirvana
Nirvāṇa ; ) is a central concept in Indian religions. In sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the Supreme being through moksha...

 Stalin wanted everyone to believe he had created" (i.e. in Zdravitsa) then subsequently, in these three sonatas, "expressed his true feelings". As evidence of this, Jaffé has pointed out that the central movement of Sonata No. 7 opens with a theme based on a Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

 lied
Lied
is a German word literally meaning "song", usually used to describe romantic songs setting German poems of reasonably high literary aspirations, especially during the nineteenth century, beginning with Carl Loewe, Heinrich Marschner, and Franz Schubert and culminating with Hugo Wolf...

, 'Wehmut' ('Sadness', which appears in Schumann's Liederkreis, Op. 39): the words to this translate "I can sometimes sing as if I were glad, yet secretly tears well and so free my heart. Nightingale
Nightingale
The Nightingale , also known as Rufous and Common Nightingale, is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher, Muscicapidae...

s... sing their song of longing from their dungeon
Dungeon
A dungeon is a room or cell in which prisoners are held, especially underground. Dungeons are generally associated with medieval castles, though their association with torture probably belongs more to the Renaissance period...

's depth... everyone delights, yet no one feels the pain, the deep sorrow in the song." Ironically (because, it appears, no one had noticed his allusion) Sonata No. 7 received a Stalin Prize (Second Class), and No. 8 a Stalin Prize First Class, even though the works have been subsequently interpreted as representing Prokofiev "venting his anger and frustration with the Soviet regime."

War years

Prokofiev had been considering making an opera out of Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

's epic novel War and Peace
War and Peace
War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature...

, when news of the German invasion of Russia on 22 June 1941 made the subject seem all the more timely. Prokofiev took two years to compose his original version of War and Peace
War and Peace (Prokofiev)
War and Peace is an opera in two parts , sometimes arranged as five acts, by Sergei Prokofiev to a Russian libretto by the composer and Mira Mendelson, based on the novel War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy...

. Because of the war he was evacuated together with a large number of other artists, initially to the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 where he composed his Second String Quartet. By this time his relationship with the 25-year-old writer Mira Mendelson (1915–1968) had finally led to his separation from his wife Lina, although they were never technically divorced: indeed Prokofiev had tried to persuade Lina and their sons to accompany him as evacuees out of Moscow, but Lina opted to stay.

During the war years, restrictions on style and the demand that composers should write in a 'socialist realist' style were slackened, and Prokofiev was generally able to compose in his own way. The Violin Sonata No. 1
Violin Sonata No. 1 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op 80, written between 1938 and 1946 , is one of the darkest and most brooding of the composer's works.The work is about 30 minutes long and is in four movements:...

, Op. 80, The Year 1941, Op. 90, and the Ballade for the Boy Who Remained Unknown, Op. 93 all came from this period. Some critics have said that the emotional springboard of the First Violin Sonata and many other of Prokofiev's compositions of this time "may have more to do with anti-Stalinism than the war", and most of his later works "resonated with darkly tragic ironies that can only be interpreted as critiques of Stalin's repressions."

In 1943 Prokofiev joined Eisenstein in Alma-Ata, the largest city in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

, to compose more film music (Ivan the Terrible
Ivan the Terrible (Prokofiev)
Ivan the Terrible is music by Sergei Prokofiev originally composed for the Sergei Eisenstein film about the sixteenth-century ruler. Prokofiev composed music to Part 1 in 1942-44, and to Part 2 in 1945; the score is cataloged as Op. 116...

), and the ballet Cinderella
Cinderella (Prokofiev)
Cinderella is a ballet, Op. 87, composed by Sergei Prokofiev to a scenario by Nikolai Volkov. It is one of his most popular and melodious compositions, and has inspired a great many choreographers since its inception. The piece was composed between 1940 and 1944. Part way through writing it he...

 (Op. 87), one of his most melodious and celebrated compositions. Early that year he also played excerpts from War and Peace to members of the Bolshoi Theatre collective. However, the Soviet government had opinions about the opera which resulted in many revisions. In 1944, Prokofiev moved to a composer's colony outside Moscow in order to compose his Fifth Symphony
Symphony No. 5 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major in Soviet Russia in one month in the summer of 1944.-Background:Fourteen years had passed since Prokofiev's last symphony....

 (Op. 100) which would turn out to be the most popular of all his symphonies, both within Russia and abroad. Shortly afterwards, he suffered a concussion after a fall due to chronic high blood pressure. He never fully recovered from this injury, which severely reduced his productivity in the ensuing years, though some of his last pieces were as fine as anything before.

Post-war

Prokofiev had time to write his postwar Sixth Symphony
Symphony No. 6 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Symphony No. 6 in E-flat minor in 1947.-Background:The symphony, written as an elegy of the tragedies of World War II, has often been regarded as the darker twin to the victorious Symphony No...

 and a ninth piano sonata (for Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter was a Soviet pianist well known for the depth of his interpretations, virtuoso technique, and vast repertoire. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Childhood:...

) before the Party, as part of the so-called "Zhdanov Decree
Zhdanov Doctrine
The Zhdanov Doctrine was a Soviet cultural doctrine developed by the Central Committee secretary Andrei Zhdanov in 1946. It proposed that the world was divided into two camps: the imperialistic, headed by the United States; and democratic, headed by the Soviet Union...

", suddenly changed its opinion about his music. The war's end allowed the Party to tighten its reins on domestic artists, forcing creative attention to turn inward again. Prokofiev's music was now seen as a grave example of formalism
Formalism (music)
In music theory and especially in the branch of study called the aesthetics of music, formalism is the concept that a composition's meaning is entirely determined by its form.-Aesthetic theory:Leonard B...

, and was branded as "anti-democratic". With many works banned, most concert and theatre administrators panicked and would not program Prokofiev's music at all, leaving him in severe financial straits.

On 20 February 1948, Prokofiev's wife Lina was arrested for 'espionage', as she tried to send money to her mother in Spain. She was sentenced to 20 years, but was eventually released after Stalin's death in 1956 and in 1974 left the Soviet Union.

His latest opera projects were quickly cancelled by the Kirov Theatre. This snub, in combination with his declining health, caused Prokofiev to progressively withdraw from active musical life. His doctors ordered him to limit his activities, limiting him to composing for only an hour or two each day. In 1949 he wrote his Cello Sonata in C, Op. 119, for the 22-year old Mstislav Rostropovich
Mstislav Rostropovich
Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich, KBE , known to close friends as Slava, was a Soviet and Russian cellist and conductor. He was married to the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya. He is widely considered to have been the greatest cellist of the second half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest of...

, who gave the first performance in 1950, with Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter was a Soviet pianist well known for the depth of his interpretations, virtuoso technique, and vast repertoire. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Childhood:...

. The last public performance of his lifetime was the première of the somewhat bittersweet Seventh Symphony
Symphony No. 7 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 7 in C-sharp minor, Op.131, was completed in 1952, the year before his death. It is his last symphony.-Background:...

 in 1952. The music was written for a children's television program.

Death

Prokofiev died at the age of 61 on 5 March 1953, the day Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's death was announced. He had lived near Red Square
Red Square
Red Square is a city square in Moscow, Russia. The square separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from a historic merchant quarter known as Kitai-gorod...

, and for three days the throngs gathered to mourn Stalin, making it impossible to carry Prokofiev's body out for the funeral service at the headquarters of the Soviet Composer's Union. He is buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery
Novodevichy Cemetery
Novodevichy Cemetery is the most famous cemetery in Moscow, Russia. It is next to the 16th-century Novodevichy Convent, which is the city's third most popular tourist site. It should not be confused with the Novodevichy Cemetery in Saint Petersburg....

 in Moscow.

The leading Soviet musical periodical reported Prokofiev's death as a brief item on page 116. The first 115 pages were devoted to the death of Stalin. Usually Prokofiev's death is attributed to cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding into the brain). He had been chronically ill for the prior eight years; the precise nature of Prokofiev's terminal illness remains uncertain.

Lina Prokofieva outlived her estranged husband by many years, dying in London in early 1989. Royalties from her late husband's music provided her with a modest income. Their sons Sviatoslav (1924–2010), an architect, and Oleg
Oleg Prokofiev
Oleg Sergeevich Prokofiev — prominent artist, sculptor and a poet....

 (1928–1998), an artist, painter, sculptor and poet, dedicated a large part of their lives to the promotion of their father's life and work.

Works

Important works include (in chronological order):
  • Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat major
    Piano Concerto No. 1 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev set about composing his Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat major, Op. 10 in 1911 and finished it in 1912. A one-movement concerto, it is the shortest of his five complete piano concertos, lasting only around a quarter of an hour.- Structure :...

    , op. 10
  • Toccata in D minor
    Toccata (Prokofiev)
    The Toccata in D minor, Op. 11 is a piece for solo piano, written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1912 and debuted by the composer on December 10, 1916 in Petrograd. It is a further development of the toccata form, which has been used by composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Robert Schumann...

    , Op. 11, for piano
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor
    Piano Sonata No. 2 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 14, was composed in 1912 and premiered on February 5, 1914 in Moscow with the composer performing. Prokofiev dedicated the sonata to his friend and fellow student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Maximilian Schmidthof, who committed suicide...

    , Op. 14
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor
    Piano Concerto No. 2 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev set to work on his Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16 in 1912 and completed it in 1913. Performing as solo pianist, he premiered the work on August 23 the same year at Pavlovsk. Most of the audience reacted intensely...

    , Op. 16
  • Sarcasms, Op. 17, for piano
  • Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major
    Violin Concerto No. 1 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev began his Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, opus 19, as a concertino in 1915 but soon abandoned it to work on his opera The Gambler. He returned to the concerto in the summer of 1917. It premiered on October 18, 1923 at the Paris Opera with Marcel Darrieux playing the violin part...

    , Op. 19
  • Scythian Suite
    Scythian Suite (Prokofiev)
    The Scythian Suite is an orchestral suite by Sergei Prokofiev written in 1915.-Background:Prokofiev originally wrote the music for the ballet Ala i Lolli, which is about the Scythians. The score was written to the words of Russian poet Sergey Gorodetsky...

    , Op. 20, suite for orchestra
  • Chout
    Chout
    Chout, Op. 21 , is the usual English-language title of a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev, written in two versions between 1915 and 1921. It is sometimes known as "The Tale of the Buffoon", or simply "The Buffoon"...

    , Op. 21, ballet in six scenes
  • Visions fugitives
    Visions Fugitives
    Visions fugitives are a series of short piano pieces written by Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev between 1915 and 1917. They were premiered by Prokofiev on April 15, 1918 in Petrograd, Soviet Union...

    , Op. 22, set of twenty piano pieces
  • The Gambler
    The Gambler (Prokofiev)
    The Gambler is an opera in four acts by Sergei Prokofiev to a Russian libretto by the composer, based on the story of the same name by Fyodor Dostoyevsky....

    , Op. 24, opera in four acts
  • Symphony No. 1 in D major
    Symphony No. 1 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev began work on his Symphony No. 1 in D major in 1916, but wrote most of it in 1917, finishing work on September 10. It is written in loose imitation of the style of Haydn , and is widely known as the Classical Symphony, a name given to it by the composer...

     Classical, Op. 25, an archetypal neo-classical
    Neoclassicism (music)
    Neoclassicism in music was a twentieth-century trend, particularly current in the period between the two World Wars, in which composers sought to return to aesthetic precepts associated with the broadly defined concept of "classicism", namely order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotional restraint...

     composition
  • Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major
    Piano Concerto No. 3 (Prokofiev)
    Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 is the best-known concerto by Sergei Prokofiev. It was completed in 1921 using sketches first started in 1913.-Composition and performances:...

    , Op. 26
  • The Love for Three Oranges, Op. 33, opera in four acts, includes the famous March from the Love for Three Oranges
  • Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34, for clarinet and piano quintet
  • Quintet
    Quintet (Prokofiev)
    -Background:In 1923, when Prokofiev was staying in Paris, a travelling troupe commissioned a ballet from him. However, the ensemble that provided music accompaniment to the troupe only contained five members. This provided Prokofiev an opportunity to write more chamber music. His most recent...

    , Op. 39, for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, and double-bass
  • The Fiery Angel, Op. 37, opera in five acts
  • Symphony No. 2 in D minor
    Symphony No. 2 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Symphony No. 2 in D minor in Paris in 1924-5, during what he called "nine months of frenzied toil". He characterized this symphony as a work of "iron and steel".- Structure :...

    , Op. 40
  • Le pas d'acier
    Le Pas d'acier (Prokofiev)
    Le pas d'acier is a ballet in two scenes, and also suite of music based on the ballet score , by Sergei Prokofiev.-History:...

    , ballet in two scenes, Op. 41
  • Divertimento
    Divertimento
    Divertimento is a musical genre, with most of its examples from the 18th century. The mood of the divertimento is most often lighthearted and it is generally composed for a small ensemble....

    , Op. 43
  • Symphony No. 3 in C minor
    Symphony No. 3 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Symphony No. 3 in C minor in 1928.-Background:The music derives from Prokofiev's opera The Fiery Angel. This opera had been accepted for performance in the 1927-28 season at the Berlin State Opera by Bruno Walter, but this production never materialised; in fact, the...

    , Op. 44
  • The Prodigal Son, Op. 46, ballet in three scenes
  • Symphony No. 4 in C major
    Symphony No. 4 (Prokofiev)
    Symphony No. 4, Op. 47/112 is actually two works by Sergei Prokofiev. The first, Op. 47, was written in 1929 and premiered in 1930. The second, Op. 112, is a large-scale revision from 1947...

    , Op. 47 (revised as Op. 112)
  • Sinfonietta
    Sinfonietta (Prokofiev)
    Sinfonietta in A major is a composition by Sergei Prokofiev.-Background:Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Sinfonietta in A major, Op. 5, in 1909 and dedicated it to Nikolai Tcherepnin, his conducting professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory....

    , Op. 5/48
  • Four Portraits from "The Gambler", Op. 49
  • String Quartet No. 1 in B minor
    String Quartet No. 1 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev wrote his String Quartet No. 1 in B minor between 1930 and 1931 as a commission from the Library of Congress.-Analysis:...

    , Op. 50
  • Symphonic Song
    Symphonic Song (Prokofiev)
    -Analysis:Symphonic Song is a work demonstrating Prokofiev's transition from Parisian modernism to Soviet lyricism. Prokofiev had described of it as "a serious piece of work, and I took great care in choosing the thematic material...

    , Op. 57
  • Lieutenant Kije
    Lieutenant Kijé (Prokofiev)
    Lieutenant Kijé is the score composed by Sergei Prokofiev for the 1934 Soviet film Lieutenant Kijé directed by Aleksandr Faintsimmer based on the novel of the same title by Yury Tynyanov.-Suite from Lieutenant Kijé:...

    , Op. 60, suite for orchestra, includes the famous Troika
  • Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor
    Violin Concerto No. 2 (Prokofiev)
    The Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63, written in 1935 by Sergei Prokofiev, is a work in three movements:#Allegro moderato#Andante assai#Allegro, ben marcato...

    , Op. 63
  • Romeo and Juliet
    Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev)
    Romeo and Juliet is a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev based on William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It is one of the most enduringly popular ballets...

    , Op. 64, ballet in four acts, contains the famous "Dance of the Knights
    Dance of the Knights
    "Montagues and Capulets" is a piano transcription of the original ballet piece called "Dance of the Knights". It is a score reduced by Sergei Prokofiev himself to be included into Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 75. The original piece "Montagues and Capulets" is a piano transcription of the...

    "
    • Orchestral suites extracted from Romeo and Juliet:
      • Suite No. 1 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64bis
      • Suite No. 2 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64ter
      • Suite No. 3 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 101
    • Ten Pieces for Piano from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 75
  • Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67, a children's tale for narrator and orchestra
  • Alexander Nevsky
    Alexander Nevsky (Prokofiev)
    Alexander Nevsky is the score for the 1938 Sergei Eisenstein film Alexander Nevsky, composed by Sergei Prokofiev. He later rearranged the music in the form of a cantata for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra...

    , Op. 78, cantata for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra
  • Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor
    Violin Sonata No. 1 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op 80, written between 1938 and 1946 , is one of the darkest and most brooding of the composer's works.The work is about 30 minutes long and is in four movements:...

    , Op. 80
  • The three so-called War Sonatas:
    • Piano Sonata No. 6 in A major
      Piano Sonata No. 6 (Prokofiev)
      Piano Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 82, by Sergei Prokofiev, is the first of his three War Sonatas. It was composed between 1939–1940 and premiered April 8, 1940 in Moscow.-Movements:The sonata consists of four movements:#Allegro moderato...

      , Op. 82
    • Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat major
      Piano Sonata No. 7 (Prokofiev)
      Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat major, Op. 83 , the second of his three so-called War Sonatas, was composed between 1939-1942 and premiered January 18, 1943 in Moscow by Sviatoslav Richter....

      , Op. 83
    • Piano Sonata No. 8 in B-flat major
      Piano Sonata No. 8 (Prokofiev)
      Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Op. 84, the third of his three War Sonatas, was composed between 1939-1944 and premiered 30 December 1944 in Moscow by Emil Gilels....

      , Op. 84
  • Betrothal in a Monastery, Op. 86, opera.
  • Cinderella
    Cinderella (Prokofiev)
    Cinderella is a ballet, Op. 87, composed by Sergei Prokofiev to a scenario by Nikolai Volkov. It is one of his most popular and melodious compositions, and has inspired a great many choreographers since its inception. The piece was composed between 1940 and 1944. Part way through writing it he...

    , Op. 87, ballet in three acts
  • War and Peace
    War and Peace (Prokofiev)
    War and Peace is an opera in two parts , sometimes arranged as five acts, by Sergei Prokofiev to a Russian libretto by the composer and Mira Mendelson, based on the novel War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy...

    , Op. 91, opera in thirteen scenes
  • String Quartet No. 2 in F major
    String Quartet No. 2 (Prokofiev)
    -Background:Prokofiev, along with other Soviet artists, was evacuated from the major cities when the Nazis broke their non-aggression pact and invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. On August 8, 1941, Prokofiev traveled to Nalchik with other artists, among them his friend, musician Myaskovsky, actors,...

    , Op. 92
  • Flute Sonata
    Flute Sonata (Prokofiev)
    The Flute Sonata in D, Op. 94, was written in 1942-3 by Sergei Prokofiev. It was later transcribed for violin, by the composer with the help of violinist David Oistrakh, as Op. 94a. There are four movements:*I. Moderato*II. Scherzo: Presto*III. Andante...

     in D, Op. 94 (later arranged as Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 94a)
    Violin Sonata No. 2 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 94 bis, was based on the composer's own Flute Sonata in D, Op. 94, written in 1942 but arranged for violin in 1943 when Prokofiev was living in Perm in the Ural Mountains, a remote shelter for Soviet artists during the Secord World War...

    )
  • Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major
    Symphony No. 5 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major in Soviet Russia in one month in the summer of 1944.-Background:Fourteen years had passed since Prokofiev's last symphony....

    , Op. 100
  • Piano Sonata No. 9 in C major, Op. 103
  • Symphony No. 6 in E-flat minor
    Symphony No. 6 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Symphony No. 6 in E-flat minor in 1947.-Background:The symphony, written as an elegy of the tragedies of World War II, has often been regarded as the darker twin to the victorious Symphony No...

    , Op. 111
  • Ivan the Terrible
    Ivan the Terrible (Prokofiev)
    Ivan the Terrible is music by Sergei Prokofiev originally composed for the Sergei Eisenstein film about the sixteenth-century ruler. Prokofiev composed music to Part 1 in 1942-44, and to Part 2 in 1945; the score is cataloged as Op. 116...

    , Op. 116, music for Eisenstein
    Sergei Eisenstein
    Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein , né Eizenshtein, was a pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist, often considered to be the "Father of Montage"...

    's classic film of the same name.
  • The Tale of the Stone Flower
    The Tale of the Stone Flower (Prokofiev)
    The Tale of the Stone Flower is Sergei Prokofiev's eighth and last ballet, written between 1948 and 1953. It is based on the Russian Ural folk tale of the same name by Pavel Bazhov and is also the last of the trilogy of ballets Prokofiev wrote in the Russian ballet tradition.-Numbers:Prologue:The...

    , Op. 118, ballet in two acts
  • Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E minor
    Symphony-Concerto (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto in E minor, Op. 125 is a large-scale work for cello and orchestra. Prokofiev dedicated it to Mstislav Rostropovich, who premiered it on February 18, 1952 with Sviatoslav Richter conducting . After this first performance Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto in E...

    , Op. 125, written for Mstislav Rostropovich
    Mstislav Rostropovich
    Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich, KBE , known to close friends as Slava, was a Soviet and Russian cellist and conductor. He was married to the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya. He is widely considered to have been the greatest cellist of the second half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest of...

  • Symphony No. 7 in C-sharp minor
    Symphony No. 7 (Prokofiev)
    Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 7 in C-sharp minor, Op.131, was completed in 1952, the year before his death. It is his last symphony.-Background:...

    , Op. 131

Recordings

Prokofiev was a soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
The London Symphony Orchestra is a major orchestra of the United Kingdom, as well as one of the best-known orchestras in the world. Since 1982, the LSO has been based in London's Barbican Centre.-History:...

, conducted by Piero Coppola
Piero Coppola
Piero Coppola , was an Italian conductor, pianist and composer.-Life and career:Coppola was born in Milan; his parents were both singers. He studied at the Milan Conservatory, graduating in piano and composition in 1910. By 1911 he was already conducting opera at La Scala opera house in Milan...

, in the first recording of his Piano Concerto No. 3
Piano Concerto No. 3 (Prokofiev)
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 is the best-known concerto by Sergei Prokofiev. It was completed in 1921 using sketches first started in 1913.-Composition and performances:...

, recorded in London by His Master's Voice in June 1932. Prokofiev also recorded some of his solo piano music for HMV in Paris in February 1935; these recordings were issued on CD by Pearl
Pearl
A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is made up of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other...

 and Naxos
Naxos Records
Naxos Records is a record label specializing in classical music. Through a number of imprints, Naxos also releases genres including Chinese music, jazz, world music, and early rock & roll. The company was founded in 1987 by Klaus Heymann, a German-born resident of Hong Kong.Naxos is the largest...

. In 1938, he conducted the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra is an orchestra based in Moscow, Russia. It was founded in 1951 by Samuil Samosud, as the Moscow Youth Orchestra for young and inexperienced musicians, acquiring its current name in 1953...

 in a recording of the second suite from his Romeo and Juliet ballet; this performance was later released on LP
LP album
The LP, or long-playing microgroove record, is a format for phonograph records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry...

 and CD. Another reported recording with Prokofiev and the Moscow Philharmonic was of the First Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto No. 1 (Prokofiev)
Sergei Prokofiev began his Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, opus 19, as a concertino in 1915 but soon abandoned it to work on his opera The Gambler. He returned to the concerto in the summer of 1917. It premiered on October 18, 1923 at the Paris Opera with Marcel Darrieux playing the violin part...

 with David Oistrakh
David Oistrakh
David Fyodorovich Oistrakh , , David Fiodorović Ojstrakh, ; – October 24, 1974, was a Soviet violinist....

 as soloist; Everest Records
Everest Records
Everest Records was a stereophonic record label based in Bayside, Long Island started by Harry D. Belock and Bert Whyte in May 1958. It was devoted mainly to classical music.-History:...

 later released this recording on an LP. Despite the attribution, the conductor was Alexander Gauk. A short sound film of Prokofiev playing some of the music from his opera War and Peace and then explaining the music has been discovered.

Posthumous reputation

Prokofiev may well be the most popular composer of 20th century music. His orchestral music alone is played more frequently in the United States than that of any other composer of the last hundred years, save Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

, while his operas, ballets, chamber works, and piano music appear regularly throughout the major concert halls world-wide.

Yet he has never won the admiration of Western academics and critics currently enjoyed by Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 and Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

, composers purported to have a greater influence on a younger generation of musicians. While his Symphony No. 1, Op. 25, "Classical" is likely the first definitive neo-classical
Neoclassicism (music)
Neoclassicism in music was a twentieth-century trend, particularly current in the period between the two World Wars, in which composers sought to return to aesthetic precepts associated with the broadly defined concept of "classicism", namely order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotional restraint...

 composition, arriving 4–5 years before such works as Stravinsky's Pulcinella
Pulcinella
Pulcinella, ; often called Punch or Punchinello in English, Polichinelle in French, is a classical character that originated in the commedia dell'arte of the 17th century and became a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry....

, some contend that "the movement started in earnest with Stravinsky", or even cite the influence of Stravinsky's neo-classicism on Prokofiev.

Nor has Prokofiev's biography captured the imagination of the public, in the way that Shostakovich appeared, for example, in sources such as Volkov's Testimony, as an impassioned dissident. Whilst Arthur Honegger
Arthur Honegger
Arthur Honegger was a Swiss composer, who was born in France and lived a large part of his life in Paris. He was a member of Les six. His most frequently performed work is probably the orchestral work Pacific 231, which is interpreted as imitating the sound of a steam locomotive.-Biography:Born...

 proclaimed that Prokofiev would "remain for us the greatest figure of contemporary music", his reputation in the West has suffered greatly as a result of cold-war antipathies.

But Prokofiev's music and his reputation stand well-positioned to benefit from the demise of cultural politics. His fusion of melody and modernism and his "gift, virtually unparalleled among 20th-century composers, for writing distinctively original diatonic melodies", may stand him in good stead as we begin to appreciate the unique genius of this most prolific and enigmatic of composers.

Honours and awards

  • Six Stalin Prizes:, 2nd class - for the 7th Sonata, 1st class - for the 5th Symphony and 8th Sonata, 1st class - for the music for the film "Ivan the Terrible" Part 1 (1944), 1st class - for the ballet "Cinderella" (1944), 1st class - a sonata for violin and piano, 2nd class - for vocal-symphonic suite "Winter fire" and the oratorio "On Guard for Peace" on poems by S. Marshak
  • Lenin Prize
    Lenin Prize
    The Lenin Prize was one of the most prestigious awards of the USSR, presented to individuals for accomplishments relating to science, literature, arts, architecture, and technology. It was created on June 23, 1925 and was awarded until 1934. During the period from 1935 to 1956, the Lenin Prize was...

     (1957 - posthumous) - for the 7th Symphony
  • People's Artist of RSFSR (1947)
  • Order of the Red Banner of Labour
    Order of the Red Banner of Labour
    The Order of the Red Banner of Labour was an order of the Soviet Union for accomplishments in labour and civil service. It is the labour counterpart of the military Order of the Red Banner. A few institutions and factories, being the pride of Soviet Union, also received the order.-History:The Red...


Dictionary articles

  • The Concise Edition of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 8th ed. Revised by Nicolas Slonimsky. New York, Schirmer Books, 1993. ISBN 0-02-872416-X
  • Prokofiev, Sergei by Richard Taruskin, in 'The New Grove Dictionary of Opera
    New Grove Dictionary of Opera
    The New Grove Dictionary of Opera is an encyclopedia of opera, considered to be one of the best general reference sources on the subject. It is the largest work on opera in English, and in its printed form, amounts to 5,448 pages in four volumes....

    ', ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992) ISBN 0-333-73432-7

External links


http://prokofiev-centr.org.ua/index.php?lang=en

Recordings

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