Sergei Prokofiev was a descendant from the explosion of modern
music created by Igor Stravinsky.
Many of his works were nationalistic in spirit,
especially those written during World War II and his piano style includes combination of
percussive elements with lyricism. His music was often considered
ironical and somewhat bordering on the grotesque. He was a virtuoso
pianist and his nine piano sonatas are the most important set
of sonatas in the twentieth century.
Sergei Prokofiev was born on April 23rd, 1891 in the Ukrainian village of Sontzovka. His family was well-off, and throughout the majority of his life he did not need to worry about money. He slowly grew to musical fame with his brash playing of the piano and his rather dissonant pieces that caused great dismay among his professors at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Prokofiev studied under Rimsky-Korsukov, as did many of the Russian composers of this time. He was influenced by his musical flair and his rather upbeat, colorful orchestrations. He began to compose pieces where each of his hands would play in different keys. For his graduation piece, he stormed through with his First Piano Concerto, causing the dean of the conservatory to cry in anguish.
He then went on tour in America and Japan. But in 1927, he decided to return to his homeland of Russia out of homesickness. Here he was welcomed as a musical hero and he began to compose music that was very nationalistic. These pieces included "Hail to Stalin" and "Hymn to the Soviet Union." Nonetheless, he also composed several other pieces during this time. His Leningrad Sonata and Fifth Symphony expressed the turmoil of the country during those dark years.
However when Prokofiev entered his late fifties, Russia began to
only allow pieces that were simple enough for any common man, such
as Stalin, to understand. This restrained the composing output the
entire groups of Russian composers during this era from Dmitri Shostakovich to Aram Khatchaturian.
Nevertheless, Prokofiev had already composed his greatest pieces,
and not even Russian Communism could suppress their beauty and
integrity. Prokofiev died on March 5th, 1953 in Moscow.
His Famous Compositions
Prokofiev's notable pieces include his famous piece for
children, Peter and the Wolf. When you were a child, you most
definitely heard the simple tune that is a great introduction to
the instruments of an orchestra. He also wrote two beautiful
ballets, Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet. His Third Piano Concerto
is without a doubt is best in that form. He also wrote two string quartets and
various chamber pieces for his chamber repertoire.
Other links of interest: