Wednesday, March 5 is the 50th anniversary of the death of the great composer, pianist and conductor Sergei Prokofiev /1891-1953/.
Prokofiev was born on April 23, 1891 at Sontsovka Estate, Yekaterinoslavl Province. At 6, he began composing cycles for small piano plays; at 9, he wrote a children's opera. At 13, having finished a preparatory course with the famous composer Reinhold Gliere, he joined the St. Petersburg Conservatory, from which he graduated in the composition class in 1909 and the piano class in 1914. Among his teachers were the classics of Russian music Lyadov and Rimsky-Korsakov. Graduating in the piano class, he performed his Piano Concerto No. 1 and won the prestigious Rubinstein Award.
Prokofiev's music was hotly debated in the musical circles. His early compositions were marked by satirical motives and were deliberately anti-romanticist, often harsh, imbued with disharmonies, very energetic. The most outstanding of them are the ballet "Jester" /"The Tale of the Buffoon/" /1915/, opera "The Gambler" based on a novel by Dostoyevsky /1915-1916/, a few instrumental concertos and sonatas, "Scythian Suite" /1915/, and "Seven, They Are Seven" /1917/. Among his early masterpieces is the Classical Symphony /1917/.
In 1918 and 1919, he toured the United States, where he completed his comic opera, "The Love for Three Oranges." By that time, he also composed Piano Concerto No. 3. In 1922, he moved to Germany; in 1923, he settled down in Paris, where he spent the next decade /with long concert tours of Europe and the USA/. In Paris, Sergei Dyagilev's private theatrical enterprise, Russian Ballet, where Prokofiev's "Jester" ran in 1921, staged his ballets "The Steel Step" /1927/ and "The Prodigal Son" /1928/. In 1925-1931, Prokofiev wrote symphonies No. 3 and 4 and piano concertos 4 and 5, in which his style reached the peak of its tensity and acuity.
Prokofiev returned to Russia in 1933. In the years that followed, he worked in many different genres. The works composed during that period include ballets "Romeo and Juliet" /1935/ and "Cinderella" /1944/, tale for speaker and orchestra "Peter and the Wolf" /1936/, and music to the films "Lieutenant Kije" /1934/, "Alexander Nevsky" /1938/ and "Ivan the Terrible" /1945/. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 and immediately after it he composed a number of patriotic pieces plus operas "Betrothal in the Monastery" based on a comedy by Sheridan /1940-1941/ and "War and Peace" based on a novel by Tolstoi /1941-1942/, a few chamber and instrumental comspositions, and piano music of different genres. After the war, he presented symphonies No. 5 /1945/, 6 /1947/ and 7 /1952/. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1951.
Prokofiev died in Moscow on March 5, 1953, the day of Stalin's demise.