Prokofiev, Sergei

Russian composer, conductor, pianist, writer, chess player, People's Artist of the RSFSR, laureate of six Stalin Prizes and the Lenin Prize. Regarded one of the 20th century major composers as the creator of acknowledged masterpieces in various musical genres.


The classical music connoisseurs mark April 23, 1891 as a birthday of the prominent Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. Actually, the composer fabricated the date of his birth, since all official documents indicate completely different date - April 27. It is believed that Prokofiev made this with an ulterior motive; he just considered his life with certain dates and events.

In world history, the biography of Sergei Prokofiev is distinguished, primarily, by development of the unique musical language. The techniques that distinguish the composer’s works were lying in implementation of a special form of the dominant (later it was called the Prokofiev dominant).

Sergei Prokofiev was born on April 23, 1891 in the village of Sontsovka, Yekaterinoslavskaya province. The boy’s mother, being an excellent pianist, was bringing him up. Sergei began studying music at the age of 5 and even then showed interest in composing. His mother wrote down the pieces that he created - rondos, waltzes, songs, "Indian gallop". At the age of 9-10, the boy wrote 2 operas - “The Giant" and "The Desolate Islands". Maria Grigorievna taught her son how to notate the pieces, and all subsequent rondos and waltzes of his own composition the prodigy boy provided with musical notes himself.

At the age of 9, Prokofiev wrote his first opera “The Giant”, and at the age of 11, he performed it to the famous composer and teacher Sergei Taneyev. Taneyev was impressed by the boy's talent made arrangement with his friend, the famous composer and pianist Reinhold Glière that th latter will spend the summer of 1902 in Sontsovka teaching Sergei.

Prokofiev graduated from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory as a conductor in 1909, at the age of 18, and five years later, he graduated as a pianist as well. His teachers were the prominent musicians Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Anatoly Lyadov and Nikolai Cherepnin. While studying he was acquainted with future great composers - Sergei Rachmaninoff and Igor Stravinsky.

In 1913, after Prokofiev performed “The Second Piano Concerto”, the public was separated to those who admired the composer and those who criticized him, calling the work "scandalous and futuristic".

The acquaintance with Sergei Diaghilev in 1914 was the pivotal point in the predestination of Prokofiev. Four ballets were created due to alliance of the entrepreneur and composer. In 1915, Diaghilev organized the first overseas performance of Prokofiev with the program comprised of his own compositions. In May 1918, Sergei went on a foreign tour, which had been lasting for fifteen years. Prokofiev lived and performed in America, Europe, Japan, and Cuba. In 1927, 1929 and 1932 Prokofiev undertook concert trips to the USSR. People's Commissar for Education Anatoly Lunacharsky personally tried to persuade him to return to Moscow. In 1936, he returned to his homeland with his Spanish wife, the singer Carolina Codina. Prokofiev with his wife and sons Svyatoslav and Oleg finally settled in Moscow. Subsequently, he traveled abroad (to Europe and the USA) only twice: in the 1936/37 and 1938/39 seasons.

Several years later, the Soviet government will declare his marriage invalid, and without a divorce on January 15, 1948, the composer officially married for the second time. His first wife was declared a spy and was thrown into Stalin's camps, from where she returned in 1956. Later she managed to leave the USSR, died at the age of 91 in Germany (or in London).

In 1938, Sergei the movie "Alexander Nevsky" by Sergei Eisenstein was released; later this film was destined to become the symbol of struggle against the German fascist invaders. The music for this movie, as well as the music for the second monumental film directed by Sergei Eisenstein “Ivan the Terrible”, was written by Sergei Prokofiev. During the Second World War, Prokofiev created music for three patriotic films: "Partisans in the Ukrainian steppe", "Kotovsky", "Tonya" (from the movies collection "Our girls"), as well as to the biographical movie "Lermontov”.

During the War, the composer also wrote the ballet “Cinderella”, as well as several exquisite symphonies. The opera based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy "War and Peace" occupies a special place. The composer devoted 11 years to this work, that is, he spent more time to write the music than it took to Leo Tolstoy to write the novel itself. Together with the premiere of his Fifth Symphony, which was finished simultaneously with the symphonic fairy tale “Peter and the Wolf“ and the “Classical Symphony”, Prokofiev seemed to reach the peak of his famousness as the leading composer of the Soviet Union.

Since 1949, Prokofiev had being living a sheltered life. He practically permanently lived at his country house, hence even under the absolute medical regimen he writes the opera "Story of a Man of the Right Stamp", the ballet "The Stone Flower", the Ninth Piano Sonata, the oratorio "On Guard for Peace" and others. The latest work that the composer had a chance to hear in the concert hall was the Seventh Symphony (1952). Prokofiev died in Moscow at the age of 61, on 5 March 1953, the same day with Joseph Stalin. His widow Mira Mendelson died from a heart attack in Moscow in 1968. The note dated February 1950 and signed by Prokofiev and herself was found in her purse. It was written there: "We wish to be buried next to each other". The couple was buried at Novodevichy Cemetery.


Prokofiev // TSE 2, t. 35.Moscow, 1955, p. 17.
Petrov A. Prokofiev was super-genius. "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" (2003). Interview with G. N. Rozhdestvensky. November 17, 2009.
A monument to Prokofiev was unveiled in Moscow. MIA "Russia Today". December 11, 2016.
S. Prokofiev in the contemporary world: The International Scientific Conference booklet. April 27-30, 2011 / comp. E. S. Vlasova, A. E. Maksimova. Moscow State Conservatory named after Tchaikovsky.
Prokofiev in quotes and aphorisms. - M.: Publishing house "Classics - XXI", 2020.