Sergei Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev

There are few musicians with such eloquence and improvisational skills as Sergei Prokofiev, a Russian composer of many different talents, some of which included the piano and keyboards. Born to a financially well-off family in 1891, Prokofiev’s first exposure to music was through his mother, who would spend two months a year learning the piano while also playing a few sonnets every evening. Prokofiev began learning the piano instantly, and became so proficient that he was then composing his first piano composition, under the watchful supervision of his mother. Before the age of 10, he had also shown interest in opera music and started work on his first opera, called The Giant.

In his early years, Prokofiev’s parents were adamant on providing him with theory lessons, so as to clarify his conceptual frameworks as far as the piano and composition went. However, they soon began having second thoughts about their young son pursuing a music career at such a delicate age, and therefore, decided to enroll him in the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Here, he worked and learned the piano and other instruments under the auspices of renowned composers such as Alexander Winkler, Nikolai Tcherepnin and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Before his father’s death in 1910, he had started performing in local clubs and other music venues like the St. Petersburg Evenings of Contemporary Music, performing some of his early Piano Sonatas such as Four Etudes for Piano, Op 2(1909). All through the early 1910s, Prokofiev had been experimenting with a wide variety of genres, one of which was ballet music. While he may have succeeded in a number of other music compositions, Prokofiev always seem to have a hard time with ballet music, with the likes of Chout becoming subject to intense modifications in the 1920s.

The beginning of World War I was a stark turning point in the young Russian’s music career, since opportunities were on the down low and Prokofiev struggled to find lucrative projects in the distant horizon. During this time, he worked on his first symphony, The Classical (1917), which never premiered properly due to complications from war. Another change for Prokofiev was the different environments he was now being exposed to, but he settled well in America where he began work on another successful opera, The Love of Three Oranges. This project had an impressive libretto with a wide range of vocals, arranged in a relatively new way from previous compositions. Although work was left somewhat in the middle when Prokofiev was in the United States, he subsequently moved to Paris and performed the opera on a visit to America in 1921.

Having received menial works in the 1930s due to the Great Depression, Prokofiev decided to move to Russia in 1936. The period post-1936 was a completely different time for Prokofiev, and set in motion some of his most impressive works. Bearing in mind the hostile reality of the time, most of the themes covered in his works such as his orchestral piece Russian Overture (1936) andWar Sonatas embraced war-related topics and disregarded true musical passion. However, Prokofiev managed to retain his incredible ingenuity with compositions such as Peter and the Wolf, Alexander Nevsky and Romeo and Juliet, all of which were received well on an international scale. Some of these compositions were Sergei Prokofiev’s most valuable works, and are still widely performed today.

The war and post-war years saw the likes of some impressive compositions, such as War and Peace, The Ballet Cinderella and various violin sonatas, encompassing the true remarkability that Prokofiev deserves large-scale appraise for. It becomes important to realize the tremendous contributions this great artist made to the classical music world, despite the troubles he so often had to face.