Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953)
How to say the name:
‘Prokofiev’ is said like Pro-cough-ee-eff. ‘Sergei’ is said like ‘Sir-gay’.
23rd April 1891 in Sontsovka, Russia (now Krasne in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine).
Prokofiev’s grave in Moscow
5th March 1953 in Moscow, Russia.
Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.
Type of Music:
Modern classical music.
A famous piece:
- Peter and the Wolf. (See below for two videos.)
Some great pieces:
- Symphonies Nos. 1, 5, 6 and 7.
- Piano Concertos Nos. 1–5). (See below for a video of No. 1.)
- Romeo and Juliet (a ballet). (See the ballet page for a video.)
- Cinderella (a ballet).
- The Love for Three Oranges (an opera).
- The Fiery Angel (an opera).
- War and Peace (an opera).
- ‘Alexander Nevsky’ and ‘Ivan the Terrible’ (cantatas—groups of pieces for singers and orchestra).
- Some piano music, such as his piano sonatas.
Some interesting facts:
- His ballets ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Cinderella’ are very popular now.
- ‘Alexander Nevsky’ and ‘Ivan the Terrible’ were first written as music for films by the famous director, Sergei Eisenstein.
- He began to compose before he could even write properly! And he composed his first opera when he was only 9 years old!
- He went to the famous St Petersburg Conservatory to learn music, but found the lessons boring. He also shocked the people there with his own music.
- He left Russia soon after the Russian Revolution (1917) and didn’t return until 1934.
- He got into trouble with the Russian government in 1948 (as did Shostakovich) for writing music that was “too complicated for the masses”. He was made an “Enemy of the People” and his music was banned for a while (it was scary time in Russia—the Russian government at the time were the real ‘enemies of the people’, not Prokofiev and Shostakovich!).
- He died on the same day as Joseph Stalin (the Russian leader who made Russia so scary).
Here is a video of part of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. This piece of music was written for children and tells a story. Each character in the story is described in the music by a different instrument. See if you can spot this as you watch the video.
Part of Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’
By the way, here is a trailer to a film set to Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ (the music begins at about 34 seconds into the video). This film won the Academy Award for the best animated short film in 2008!
Part of the short film ‘Peter and the Wolf’ set to Prokofiev’s music
The first movement of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1
There is another video of music by Prokofiev on the following page:
- Sergei Prokofiev. This photograph is in the public domain. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
- Prokofiev’s grave in Moscow. The copyright to this photograph probably belongs to the (unknown) person who took it. If anyone knows anything about the person who took it, then please do let me know so I can seek their approval for its use here. Click here for the source of this image.
- Prokofiev: Peter & The Wolf- E. Colón & J.B. VanDemark Pt.2. Emilio Colon, conductor James VanDemark, narrator Texas Festival Orchestra Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf Part 2 International Festival Institute at Round Top – Festival Concert Hall.
- Prokofiev’s Peter & the Wolf. Prokofiev’s Peter & the Wolf on DVD through Magnolia Pictures.
- Prokofiev, Piano Concerto No. 1 – Mov I (Martha Argerich). Martha Argerich plays Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky and Orchestre Symphonique de Flandres (La Roque d’Anthéron – July 29, 2005).