Sergei Prokofiev Biography (BBC)
Sergey Prokofiev perhaps contributed more new music to the standard ‘classical’ repertory than any of his contemporaries. Yet he remains a difficult figure to pin down. Born and raised in Tsarist Russia, he established himself as a musical enfant terrible in the years before the Revolution, cultivating novel dissonances while still a student pianist-composer at the St Petersburg Conservatory.
Like Beethoven, he completed five concertos for his own instrument, losing interest once he was no longer primarily an executant himself. Despite political and economic turmoil, a burst of creativity around 1917 produced a large pile of scores, not least the First Violin Concerto and the ‘Classical’ Symphony, in which the composer’s lyrical vein is more strongly apparent alongside his keen sense of irony.
After 1918 he lived abroad, first in the USA, where his opera The Love for Three Oranges (1919) was staged, later mainly in Paris, where he became a peripheral member of the Diaghilev set. Several key compositions from this period have a tortured, Expressionistic character, notably the opera The Fiery Angel (1919–23, rev. 1926–7) and the related Third Symphony (1928).
The 1930s brought a surprising and, to some, inexplicable reconciliation with the new Soviet Russia. Prokofiev spent the last 17 years of his life in the USSR, stimulated as well as stifled by the cultural politics dictated by Stalin. The two men even died on the same night (5 March 1953).
Prokofiev’s return to Russia coincided with a state drive for greater directness of expression in the cultural sphere and, whatever the personal and professional setbacks, Prokofiev was encouraged to showcase his melodic gift in a series of major works that have proved to have enduring appeal. Notable among these are the ballets Romeo and Juliet (1935–6) and Cinderella (1940–44), the last three (of seven) symphonies, the last four (of nine) piano sonatas, the film music for Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1942–5), and the children’s fable Peter and the Wolf (1936). Acceptance of his magnum opus, the epic opera War and Peace (1941–3, rev. 1946–52), has been hindered by the lack of a definitive text and perceived ideological problems. But, for good or ill, he was an artist for hire, who prided himself on his professionalism.
As we come to know the composer’s personality through his music – in all its bracing humour, tender nostalgia and considerable tragic power – we can sense a uniquely positive response to difficult and dangerous times.
Profile by David Gutman © BBC
Sergei Prokofiev Biography (Wikipedia)
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (Russian: Сергей Сергеевич Прокофьев, Sergej Sergejevič Prokofjev; 23 April 1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russian and Soviet composer, pianist and conductor. As the creator of acknowledged masterpieces across numerous musical genres, he is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. His works include 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. Of the established forms and genres in which he worked, he created – excluding juvenilia – seven completed operas, seven symphonies, eight ballets, five piano concertos, two violin concertos, a cello concerto, a Symphony-Concerto for cello and orchestra, and nine completed piano sonatas.
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, including his first two piano concertos. In 1915 Prokofiev made a decisive break from the standard composer-pianist category with his 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 all caused a sensation among both critics and colleagues. 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 operatic success during his lifetime was The Love for Three Oranges, composed for the Chicago Opera and subsequently performed over the following decade in Europe and Russia.
- Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet - excerpts (opening) (in binaural sound)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p047067z.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p047067z.jpg2016-07-27T20:20:48.000ZListen on headphones to Jac van Steen conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p044gz1g
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet - excerpts (opening) (in binaural sound)
- Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet (extract)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03phkcw.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03phkcw.jpg2016-04-17T11:00:00.000ZPreview of music performed at the BBC Promshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03phkvx
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet (extract)
- Sergei Prokofiev and Joseph Stalinhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03phb4q.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03phb4q.jpg2016-03-30T11:55:00.000ZOn the 5th March 1953, Prokofiev died. Fifty five minutes later, Stalin was also dead.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03phb82
Sergei Prokofiev and Joseph Stalin
- Prokofiev: Prelude in C major, Op.12, No.7https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0322rl9.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0322rl9.jpg2015-09-10T09:22:00.000ZWith Szuyu Su (piano). Leeds International Piano Competition 2015, semi-final. Recorded 8 September 2015.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p0322wbf
Prokofiev: Prelude in C major, Op.12, No.7
- Prokofiev: Sonata in B flat major, Op.84https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0320dv3.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0320dv3.jpg2015-09-09T12:55:00.000ZWith Jun Sun (piano). Leeds International Piano Competition 2015, semi-final. Recorded 7 September 2015.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p0320s3h
Prokofiev: Sonata in B flat major, Op.84
- Prokofiev: Cinderellahttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01vxqpr.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01vxqpr.jpg2014-07-09T10:29:00.000ZIn this Proms Music Guide, Andrew McGregor talks about Prokofiev's Cinderella.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p022h5r9
- Prokofiev: Symphony No.1 'Classical'https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tcyz4.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tcyz4.jpg2014-07-09T10:19:00.000ZIn this Proms Music Guide, Sarah Walker talks about Prokofiev's Symphony No.1 in C.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p022h5bt
Prokofiev: Symphony No.1 'Classical'
- Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliethttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tqg9l.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tqg9l.jpg2014-07-09T10:05:00.000ZIn this Proms Music Guide, Suzy Klein talks about Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p022h4p1
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet
- Sergey Prokofiev in the 1920shttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01z2s4m.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01z2s4m.jpg2014-05-14T15:35:00.000ZDonald Macleod explores Prokofiev's life and music during his time as an emigre in Europe in the 1920s, as well as his return to Russia.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01z2s4n
Sergey Prokofiev in the 1920s
- Sergei Prokofievhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01z2r0x.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01z2r0x.jpg2014-05-14T15:11:00.000ZDonald Macleod explores Prokofiev's music.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01z2r14
- Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 'Classical'https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01slvgc.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01slvgc.jpg2014-05-03T12:50:00.000ZCharles Hazlewood and the BBC CO explore the world of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01ygz23
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 'Classical'
- Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01slt21.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01slt21.jpg2014-05-03T12:37:00.000ZDavid Nice and the BBC Symphony Orchestra examine Prokofiev's music.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01ygyr3
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5
- Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliethttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tr332.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tr332.jpg2014-05-03T12:22:00.000ZCharles Hazlewood charts the musical evolution of Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01ygy7l
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet
- Prokofiev: Lieutenant Kijehttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01slwnf.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01slwnf.jpg2014-05-03T12:09:00.000ZCharles Hazlewood explores Prokofiev's popular Lieutenant Kije suite.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01ygx20
Prokofiev: Lieutenant Kije
- Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01vrq37.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01vrq37.jpg2014-03-19T14:37:00.000ZGeoffrey Norris recommends a version from the available recordings of Prokofiev's 5th Symphony, 'Hymn To Free And Happy Man'.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01vrq4c
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5
- Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 8https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sxqlv.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sxqlv.jpg2014-02-26T15:20:00.000ZDavid Fanning recommends a version from available recordings of Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 8.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01sxqmp
Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 8
- Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No 2 in G minor - BBC Proms 2013https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01dj7kw.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01dj7kw.jpg2013-07-31T10:22:00.000ZThomas Søndergård conducts Daniel Hope (violin) and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No 2 in G minor.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01dj7xb
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No 2 in G minor - BBC Proms 2013
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