Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (//; Russian: Сергей Сергеевич Прокофьев, tr. Sergej Sergeevič Prokof'ev; 23 April 1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. His works include five piano concertos, nine completed piano sonatas and seven symphonies, and such widely heard works as the March from The Love for Three Oranges, the suite Lieutenant Kijé, the ballet Romeo and Juliet – from which "Dance of the Knights" is taken – and Peter and the Wolf.
A graduate of the St Petersburg Conservatory, Prokofiev initially made his name as an iconoclastic composer-pianist, achieving notoriety with a series of ferociously dissonant and virtuosic works for his instrument and with his first two piano concertos. Prokofiev's first major success breaking out of the composer-pianist mould was with his purely orchestral Scythian Suite, compiled from music originally composed for a ballet commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballets Russes; Diaghilev commissioned three further ballets from Prokofiev – Chout, Le pas d'acier and The Prodigal Son – which at the time of their original production were all highly successful. Prokofiev's greatest interest, however, was opera, and he composed several works in that genre, including The Gambler and The Fiery Angel. Prokofiev's one relative success in that genre during his lifetime was The Love for Three Oranges, composed for Chicago Opera and subsequently performed over the following decade in Europe and Russia.
After the Revolution, Prokofiev left Russia with the official blessing of the Soviet minister Anatoly Lunacharsky, and he lived in the United States, then Germany, then Paris, during which time he married a Spanish singer, Carolina Codina, with whom he had two sons. Because of the increasing economic deprivation of Europe, Prokofiev returned to Russia in 1936. He enjoyed some success there – notably with Lieutenant Kijé, Peter and the Wolf, Romeo and Juliet, and perhaps above all with Alexander Nevsky. The Nazi invasion of the USSR spurred him to compose his most ambitious work, an operatic version of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. In 1948 Prokofiev was criticized for "anti-democratic formalism", and with his income severely curtailed was forced to compose Stalinist works such as On Guard for Peace. However, he also enjoyed personal and artistic support from a new generation of Russian performers, notably Sviatoslav Richter and Mstislav Rostropovich and for the latter he composed his Symphony-Concerto, whilst for the former he composed his ninth piano sonata.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Works
- 3 Recordings
- 4 Posthumous reputation
- 5 Honours and awards
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 Notes
- 8 External links
Prokofiev was born in 1891 in Sontsovka (now Krasne, Krasnoarmiisk Raion, Donetsk Oblast, eastern Ukraine), an isolated rural estate in the Yekaterinoslav Governorate of the Russian Empire. His father, originally from Moscow, was an agronomist. Prokofiev's mother, Maria (née Zhitkova), came from a family of serfs owned by the Sheremetev family, where serf-children were taught theatre and arts from an early age. She was described by Reinhold Glière as "a tall woman with beautiful, clever eyes ... who knew how to create an atmosphere of warmth and simplicity about her."Having lost two daughters she devoted her life to music and spent two months a year in Moscow or St. Petersburg taking piano lessons. Sergei Prokofiev was inspired by hearing his mother practicing the piano in the evenings – mostly works by Chopin and Beethoven – and composed his first piano composition at the age of five, an 'Indian Gallop', which was written down by his mother: this was in the Lydian mode (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. Much like music, chess would remain a passion, and he became acquainted with world chess champions José Raúl Capablanca, whom he beat in a simultaneous exhibition match in 1914, and Mikhail Botvinnik. At the age of nine he was composing his first opera, The Giant, as well as an overture and various other pieces.
Formal education and controversial early works
In 1902, Prokofiev's mother met Sergei Taneyev, director of the Moscow Conservatory, who initially suggested that Prokofiev should start lessons in piano and composition with Alexander Goldenweiser. When Taneyev was unable to arrange this, he instead arranged for composer and pianist Reinhold Glière 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 – 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, Prokofiev and his mother visited Saint Petersburg to explore the possibility of their moving there for his education. They were introduced to composer Alexander Glazunov, a professor at the Conservatory, who asked to see Prokofiev and his music; Glazunov was so impressed that he urged Prokofiev's mother that her son apply to the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. 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, Alexander Winkler, Anatoly Lyadov, Nikolai Tcherepnin and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (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, the latter becoming a relatively close and lifelong 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 and conducting under Nikolai Tcherepnin.
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 modernistic 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 concertos 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 Alexander Ossovsky, who wrote a supportive letter to music publisher Boris P. Jurgenson (son of publishing-firm founder Peter Jurgenson [1836–1904]); 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's Ballets Russes.
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. Soon afterwards, he journeyed to London where he made contact with the impresario Sergei Diaghilev. 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 (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; the story, concerning a buffoon and a series of confidence tricks, had been previously suggested to Diaghilev by Igor Stravinsky 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 with 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, Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel. 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 in order to avoid conscription. He composed The Gambler based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel of the same name, but rehearsals were plagued by problems and the scheduled 1917 première had to be canceled because of the February Revolution. In the summer of that year, Prokofiev composed his first symphony, the Classical. This was his own name for the symphony, which was written in the style that, according to Prokofiev, Joseph Haydn 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). This symphony was also an exact contemporary of Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, 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 in the Caucasus. Worried about the white forces capturing Saint Petersburg, 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."
Arriving in San Francisco after having been released from questioning by immigration officials on Angel Island on 11 August 1918, Prokofiev was soon compared to other famous Russian exiles (such as Sergei Rachmaninoff). His debut solo concert in New York led to several further engagements. He also received a contract from the music director of the Chicago Opera Association, Cleofonte Campanini, for the production of his new opera The Love for Three Oranges; however, due to Campanini's illness and death, the premiere was postponed and took place in Chicago on 30 September 1921. This delay 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. He also completed some of his older, unfinished works, such as the Third Piano Concerto. 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 in the Bavarian 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 by Valery Bryusov. 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 Carolina Codina (1897–1989, whose stage name was Lina Llubera) before moving back to Paris.
There, several of his works (for example the Second Symphony) were performed, but critical reception was lukewarm. However the Symphony appeared to prompt Diaghilev to commission Le pas d'acier (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 to characterise the invading Teutonic knights in the film score for Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (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, which was broadly based on his unperformed opera The Fiery Angel. The conductor Serge Koussevitzky characterized the Third as "the greatest symphony since Tchaikovsky's Sixth."
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 in the title role. Diaghilev died only months later.
In 1929, Prokofiev wrote the Divertimento, Op. 43 and revised his Sinfonietta, 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, Op. 51, a work commissioned by Serge Lifar, who had been appointed maitre de ballet at the Paris Opéra. In 1931 and 1932 he completed his fourth and fifth piano concertos. The following year saw the completion of the Symphonic Song, 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, which was commissioned as the score to a Soviet film. Another commission, from the Kirov Theater in Leningrad, was the ballet Romeo and Juliet. 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), caused the premiere to be postponed for several years.
Return to the Soviet Union
In 1936, 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 Union of Soviet Composers, 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 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, among others) as well as the gigantic Cantata for the 20th 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. 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 for mezzo-soprano, orchestra and chorus, which was extensively performed and recorded. In the wake of Alexander Nevsky's success, Prokofiev composed his first Soviet opera Semyon Kotko, which was intended to be produced by the director Vsevolod Meyerhold. However the première of the opera was postponed because Meyerhold was arrested on 20 June 1939 by the NKVD (Joseph Stalin's Secret Police), and shot on 2 February 1940. Only months after Meyerhold's arrest, Prokofiev was 'invited' to compose Zdravitsa (literally translated 'Cheers!', but more often given the English title Hail to Stalin) (Op. 85) to celebrate Joseph Stalin'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 (No. 7: Moscow, 18 January 1943) and Emil Gilels (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 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 lied, '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. Nightingales ... sing their song of longing from their dungeon'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.
Prokofiev had been considering making an opera out of Leo Tolstoy's epic novel War and Peace, 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. Because of the war he was evacuated together with a large number of other artists, initially to the Caucasus where he composed his Second String Quartet. By this time his relationship with the 25-year-old writer and librettist 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, 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, to compose more film music (Ivan the Terrible), and the ballet Cinderella (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 (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.
Prokofiev had time to write his postwar Sixth Symphony and a ninth piano sonata (for Sviatoslav Richter) before the Party, as part of the so-called "Zhdanov Decree", 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, 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 1953 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 progressively to 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, who gave the first performance in 1950, with Sviatoslav Richter. For Rostropovich, Prokofiev also extensively recomposed his Cello Concerto, transforming it into a Symphony-Concerto, his last major masterpiece and a landmark in the cello and orchestra repertory today. The last public performance of his lifetime was the première of the somewhat bittersweet Seventh Symphony in 1952. The music was written for a children's television program.
Prokofiev died at the age of 61 on 5 March 1953, the day Joseph Stalin's death was announced. He had lived near Red Square, 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 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. 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 (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.
Important works include (in chronological order):
- Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat major, op. 10
- Toccata in D minor, Op. 11, for piano
- Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14
- Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16
- Sarcasms, Op. 17, for piano
- Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19
- Scythian Suite, Op. 20, suite for orchestra
- Chout, Op. 21, ballet in six scenes
- Visions fugitives, Op. 22, set of twenty piano pieces
- The Gambler, Op. 24, opera in four acts
- Symphony No. 1 in D major Classical, Op. 25, an early neo-classical composition
- Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, 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, 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, Op. 40
- Le pas d'acier, ballet in two scenes, Op. 41
- Divertimento, Op. 43
- Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 44
- The Prodigal Son, Op. 46, ballet in three scenes
- Symphony No. 4 in C major, Op. 47 (revised as Op. 112)
- Sinfonietta, Op. 5/48
- Four Portraits from The Gambler, Op. 49
- String Quartet No. 1 in B minor, Op. 50
- Symphonic Song, Op. 57
- Lieutenant Kije, Op. 60, suite for orchestra, includes the famous Troika
- Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63
- Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64, ballet in four acts, contains the famous "Dance of the Knights"
- Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67, a children's tale for narrator and orchestra
- Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78, cantata for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra
- Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 80
- The Three War Sonatas:
- Betrothal in a Monastery, Op. 86, opera.
- Cinderella, Op. 87, ballet in three acts
- War and Peace, Op. 91, opera in thirteen scenes
- String Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op. 92
- Flute Sonata in D, Op. 94 (later arranged as Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 94a))
- Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, Op. 100
- Piano Sonata No. 9 in C major, Op. 103
- Symphony No. 6 in E-flat minor, Op. 111
- Sonata for Solo Violin in D, Op. 115
- Ivan the Terrible, Op. 116, music for Eisenstein's classic film of the same name.
- The Tale of the Stone Flower, Op. 118, ballet in two acts
- Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 125, written for Mstislav Rostropovich
- Symphony No. 7 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131
Overture on Hebrew Themes (1919), performed by members of the Advent Chamber Orchestra.
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Prokofiev was a soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Piero Coppola, in the first recording of his Piano Concerto No. 3, 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 and Naxos. In 1938, he conducted the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in a recording of the second suite from his Romeo and Juliet ballet; this performance was later released on LP and CD. Another reported recording with Prokofiev and the Moscow Philharmonic was of the First Violin Concerto with David Oistrakh as soloist; Everest Records later released this recording on an LP. Despite the attribution, the conductor was Aleksandr 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.
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, while his operas, ballets, chamber works, and piano music appear regularly throughout the major concert halls world-wide.
Yet he has never won the same degree of admiration from Western academics and critics currently enjoyed by Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg, composers purported to have a greater influence on a younger generation of musicians. Even though his Symphony No. 1, Op. 25, "Classical" was composed some 4–5 years before such works as Stravinsky's Pulcinella, some contend that "the [neo-classical] 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 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", have led to a reassessment of his work.
The composer received honours in his native Donetsk Oblast, when the Donetsk International Airport was renamed to be "Donetsk Sergey Prokofiev International Airport", and when the Donetsk Musical and Pedagogical Institute was renamed in 1988 to "S.S. Prokofiev State Music Academy of Donetsk".
Honours and awards
- Six Stalin Prizes:
- (1943), 2nd degree – for the 7th Sonata
- (1946), 1st degree – for the 5th Symphony and 8th Sonata
- (1946), 1st degree – for the music for the film "Ivan the Terrible" Part 1 (1944)
- (1946), 1st degree – for the ballet "Cinderella" (1944)
- (1947), 1st degree – a sonata for violin and piano
- (1951), 2nd degree – for vocal-symphonic suite "Winter fire" and the oratorio "On Guard for Peace" on poems by S. Marshak
- Lenin Prize (1957 – posthumous) – for the 7th Symphony
- People's Artist of RSFSR (1947)
- Order of the Red Banner of Labour
Autobiography and diaries
- Prokofiev, Sergei (1979). David H. Appel, ed. Prokofiev by Prokofiev: A Composer's Memoir. Guy Daniels (translator). New York: Doubleday & Co. ISBN 0-385-09960-6.
- Prokofiev, Sergei (1991). Soviet Diary 1927 and Other Writings. London: Faber and Faber.
- Prokofiev, Sergei (2000) . S. Shlifstein, ed. Sergei Prokofiev: Autobiography, Articles, Reminiscences. Rose Prokofieva (translator). The Minerva Group, Inc. ISBN 0-89875-149-7.
- Prokofiev, Sergei (2006). Anthony Phillips, ed. Diaries 1907–1914: Prodigious Youth. London/Ithaca: Faber and Faber/Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-4540-8.
- Prokofiev, Sergei (2008). Anthony Phillips, ed. Diaries 1915–1923: Behind the Mask. London / Ithaca: Faber and Faber/Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-571-22630-6.
- Prokofiev, Sergei (2012). Anthony Phillips, ed. Diaries 1924–1933: Prodigal Son. London/ Ithaca: Faber and Faber/Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-571-23405-9.
- Prokofiev, Sergei (2002). Dnyevnik 1907–1933 (3 vols, in Russian). Paris. ISBN 2-9518138-0-5. ISBN 2-9518138-1-3, ISBN 2-9518138-2-1
Memoirs, essays, etc.
- Shlifstein (ed.), Semyon (1956). Prokofiev: Autobiography, Articles, Reminiscences. Rose Prokofieva (translator). Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House.
- Dorigné, Michel (1994). Serge Prokofiev. Paris.
- Jaffé, Daniel (1998). Sergey Prokofiev (2008 ed.). London.
- Morrison, Simon (2008). The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years. Oxford.
- Nestyev, Israel (1946). Prokofiev, his Musical Life. New York.
- Nestyev, Israel (1961). Prokofiev. Florence Jonas (translator). Stanford: Stanford University Press.
- Nice, David (2003). Prokofiev: From Russia to the West 1891–1935. London.
- Rakhmanova, M. P., ed. (1991). Sergei Prokofiev on the 110th anniversary of his birth: letters, reminiscences and articles (in Russian). Moscow. ISBN 5201146073 Check
- Samuel, Claude (1971). Prokofiev. London. ISBN 0-7145-0490-4.
- Seroff, Victor (1968). Sergei Prokofiev: A Soviet Tragedy. New York.
- Vishnevetskiy, Igor (2009). Sergei Prokofiev (in Russian). Moscow. ISBN 978-5-235-03212-5.
- Russian pronunciation: [sʲɪˈrɡʲej sʲɪˈrɡʲeɪvʲɪtɕ prɐˈkofʲjɪf]; alternative transliterations of his name include Sergey or Serge, and Prokofief, Prokofieff, or Prokofyev.
- While Prokofiev himself believed 23 April to be his birth date, the posthumous discovery of his birth certificate showed that he was actually born four days later, on 27 April. (Slonimsky, p. 793)
- Vishnevetskiy (2009): pp. 15–16
- "Sergei Prokofiev". Music Academy Online. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
- "Sergei Prokofiev by Paul Shoemaker". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
- Reinhold Glière. "First Steps" from Shlifstein (1956): p. 144
- "Prokofiev". Ballet Met. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
- Autobiography by Sergey Prokofiev: reprinted in Sergei Prokofiev: Soviet Diary 1927 and Other Writings. London: Faber and Faber, 1991.
- Prokofiev 1979, p. xi
- See: Winter, Edward. "Sergei Prokofiev and Chess", chesshistory.com. Prokofiev has the rare distinction for a composer of having won a game against a future world chess champion, albeit in the context of a simultaneous match: his win over Capablanca of 16 May 1914 can be played through at chessgames.com (Java required). For extracts from Prokofiev's notebooks recounting his games against Capblanca, see: The Game (part 2), sprkfv.net. All retrieved 19 December 2011.
- "He was a child prodigy on the order of Mozart, composing for piano at age five and writing an opera at nine". 
- Nice 2003, p. 15
- Prokofiev 1979, p. 46
- Prokofiev 1979, pp. 51–53
- Prokofiev, Sergey, article in Encyclopædia Britannica
- Prokofiev 1979, pp. 53–54
- Prokofiev 1979, p. 63
- "The year was 1904, Prokofiev was thirteen, and it was clear to Maria Grigoryevna that the geographical isolation of Sontsovka was not conducive to the development of her son's burgeoning musical potential". [dead link]
- "In fact, Prokofiev's parents focused most of his educational energies on non-musical subjects, particularly mathematics and the sciences." [dead link]
- Prokofiev 1979, p. 85
- "Alexander Glazunov (1865–1936)".
- Layton, Robert: "Prokofiev's Demonic Opera" Found in the introductory notes to the Philips Label recording of The Fiery Angel
- "His memoirs indicate that even in his early Conservatory years he was self-confident, generally critical of his fellow students, yet disapproving of criticism he often received from his teachers. His unfailing belief in his own innovative musical style and his criticism of fellow students was interpreted as arrogance by many around him. This arrogance and propensity to shock his teachers with his music earned him the reputation as an enfant terrible – a label Prokofiev actually enjoyed." [dead link]
- Berman, Boris (2008). Prokofiev's Piano Sonatas: A Guide for the Listener and the Performer. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-300-11490-4.
- Prokofiev 2006
- Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music, Michael Kennedy & Joyce Kennedy: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 5th edition 2007
- Rita McAllister "Sergey Prokofiev" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians: London: Macmillan Publishers, 1980
- Prokofiev 2000, pp. 240–41
- "In contrast to other composers such as Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky who wilted under critical assaults, Prokofiev welcomed the disapproving reviews. Throughout his career, in fact he would purposely push the limits of his compositions, all the while provoking and shocking listeners and critics. He relished his role as 'enfant terrible' of the music world." [dead link]
- polytonality (music) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Britannica.com. Retrieved on 28 August 2010.
- The Many faces of Prokofiev. Part 2. Sprkfv.net. Retrieved on 28 August 2010.
- Nice 2003, p. 74
- Nice 2003, pp. 99–100
- Jaffé 1998, p. 44
- See Prokofiev's diary entry 6–9 March 1915, pp. 26–27 Diaries 1915–1923 by Sergey Prokofiev, trans. Anthony Phillips (Faber & Faber, 2008)
- "Diaghilev pointed out a number of places which had to be rewritten. He was a subtle and discerning critic and he argued his point with great conviction. ... we had no difficulty in agreeing on the changes." Prokofiev 2000, p. 56
- Jaffé 1998, p. 75
- Wakin, Daniel J. (8 March 2009). "THE WEEK AHEAD: March 8–14 March: Classical". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
- As detailed in Prokofiev's autobiography. Listen to Discovering Music from 1:00 to 3:02, particularly from 1:45 to 2:39
- "Prokofiev knew his prospects were much brighter in Western Europe. Blocked from heading west by war, Prokofiev headed east instead, toward the Pacific port of Vladivostok". [dead link]
- Prokofiev 2000, p. 50 
- Prokofiev Diaries 1915–1923, trans. Phillips: p. 321.
- Prokofiev Diaries 1915–23, trans. Phillips: p. 363.
- "Having avoided returning to Russia, Prokofiev asked his mother, who was in poor health, to join him in Paris." 
- Prokofiev Diaries 1915–1923, trans. Phillips: p. 428.
- "While the Second Symphony is more remembered for its inauspicious debut, it did have a few supporters." [dead link]
- Prokofiev 2000 
- Kerr, M. G. (1994) "Prokofiev and His Cymbals", Musical Times 135, 608–609. Text also available at Alexander Nevsky and the Symphony of Psalms
- Martin Kettle (21 July 2006). "First among equals". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 21 October 2006.
- Jaffé 1998, p. 110
- Nice 2003, p. 279
- "While his notoriety grew in Europe, Prokofiev longed to return to his homeland" [dead link]
- "Now his most celebrated work has been given a new lease of life.". Independent.co.uk. 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- "Simon Morrison: review of Sergei Prokof'ev Dnevnik 1907–1933 (part 2)". Sprkfv.net. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- Jaffé 1998, p. 158
- Jaffé 1998, p. 159
- Morrison 2008, p. 163
- Morrison 2008, p. 164
- Jaffé 1998, p. 160
- Jaffé 1998, p. 172
- Sergei Prokofiev, a biographical sketch by Robert Cummings. Fortunecity.com (1953-03-05). Retrieved on 28 August 2010.
- Morrison 2008, p. 177
- "But beneath this veneer of prolificacy and thematic facility was a composer who could write music born of pain and suffering, like the Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano and Symphony No. 6. These are wartime works whose emotional springboard may have more to do with anti-Stalinism than with the war." 
- McGraw-Hill | Sergey Prokofiev. Spotlightonmusic.macmillanmh.com (1953-03-05). Retrieved on 28 August 2010.
- Morrison 2008, p. 211
- "Prokofiev wrote the first version of War and Peace during the Second World War. He revised it in the late forties and early fifties, during the period of the 1948 Zhdanov Decree, which attacked obscurantist tendencies in the music of leading Soviet composers." 
- "It quickly emerged as his most popular symphony and has remained to this day one of his greatest orchestral works." 
- Morrison 2008, p. 252
- "Prokofiev never fully recovered from this accident, although the greatness of works which were to follow gave no indication of it." [dead link]
- "This orgy of government denouncements, censorship, and intimidation became known as Zhdanovshchina ('Zhdanov's Terror'.) Prokofiev became the target in early 1948. Zhdanov denounced Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Khachaturian among other composers, as too cosmopolitan and formalist." [dead link]
- Prokofiev Biography: Twilight (1945–1953)[dead link]. Prokofiev.org (1953-03-05). Retrieved on 28 August 2010.
- The Seventh Symphony is sometimes viewed as overly simplistic or banal by its critics, but with dark emotions beneath the surface.
- "Prokofiev's body was later buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow." [dead link]
- USA (2012-04-04). "The tragedy of Sergei Prokofiev. [Semin Neurol. 1999] – PubMed – NCBI". Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- Norris, Geoffrey (23 January 2003). "My father was naïve". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 23 May 2010.
- Mann, Noelle (26 August 1998). "Obituary: Oleg Prokofiev". Independent, The (London). Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- Pearl Records, Naxos Records, amazon.com
- Prokofiev.org – Ravel Conducts Ravel/Prokofiev Conducts Prokofiev[dead link]
- "Prokofiev plays and talks about his music ...". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- "Sergey Prokofiev (1891–1953), arguably the most popular composer of the twentieth century, led a life of triumph and tragedy." Morrison 2008
- American Symphony Orchestra League
- Dorothea Redepenning. "Grove Music Online." This is a tertiary source that clearly includes information from other sources but does not name them.
- Michael Kennedy. "Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music." Oxford, 2007. p.526. This is a tertiary source that clearly includes information from other sources but does not name them.
- Smith, S. "Prokofiev and the Spirit of Paris." New York Times. 20 March 2009.
- Nestyev 1961, p. 439
- Robinson, H. "A Tale of Three Cities: Petrograd, Paris, Moscow." Lecture at Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, Lincoln Center, New York, NY, 24 March 2009.
- Randel, D.M. (Ed.) The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Cambridge, 2003.
- Taruskin, R. in "New Grove Dictionary of Opera." Sadie, S. (Ed.) Oxford, 2004.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Sergei Prokofiev|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sergei Prokofiev.|
- Prokofiev Museum in Krasnoe
- The Serge Prokofiev Foundation
- Prokofiev-Center Information portal of Donetsk State Musical Academy named after S.Prokofiev
- Free scores by Sergei Prokofiev at the International Music Score Library Project
- Holdings of the Serge Prokofiev Archive listed under AIM25.
- The chess games of Sergei Prokofiev
- List of Prokofiev's complete works[dead link]
- Works by or about Sergei Prokofiev in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Prokofiev's gravesite at findagrave.com
- "Bad Boy of the Keyboard – An Interview with Recording Artist Barbara Nissman" on AdventuresInMusic.biz, 2008
- "Finding Unlikely Ideology in Prokofiev: Polyphonic and Anti-Authoritarian Gestures in The Gambler
- Bright Lights Film Journal article on Prokofiev and Meyerhold's Boris Godunov
- Piano Rolls (The Reproducing Piano Roll Foundation)