Sergei Prokofiev was an outstanding Russian composer of the 20th century. He was born in Sontzovka, Ukraine, on April 23, 1891. His mother, an amateur pianist, gave him his first music lessons. He showed unusual talent in both piano and composition. By the age of 9 he had written a complete opera.
When he was 13, Sergei was sent to the conservatory in St. Petersburg. There he studied piano and composition with the finest teachers of the day, including Nikolai Rimsky- Korsakov (1844-1908). On his graduation in 1914, he was awarded the Anton Rubinstein prize for his performance of his First Piano Concerto. Three years later he wrote one of his most popular orchestral works, the Classical Symphony.
In 1918, Prokofiev left Russia on a concert tour of the world. He traveled first through Siberia and Japan and then to the United States. In 1921 his opera Love for Three Oranges was produced in Chicago. The following year he settled in Paris. There he renewed his acquaintance with the director of the famous Russian Ballet, Sergei Diaghilev (1872- 1929). Diaghilev produced several of Prokofiev's ballets.
In 1934, Prokofiev returned to the Soviet Union, where he wrote some of his most famous works. These include the Lieutenant Kijé suite (1933), the ballet Romeo and Juliet (1935-36), the cantata Alexander Nevsky (1938), and the opera War and Peace (1941- 43). Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony (1944) is considered by many people to be one of the greatest works of his generation. His piano music is also popular.
Beginning in 1948, Prokofiev was severely criticized by the Soviet government for allegedly composing music that was inappropriate for the Soviet people. The government later changed its position, and he was returned to favor.
Except for this short period, Prokofiev enjoyed success in the Soviet Union. In 1951 he was awarded the Stalin prize. When he died in Moscow on March 5, 1953, his works had become familiar to audiences around the world. Perhaps the most beloved is Peter and the Wolf (1936), a fairy tale told in both words and music.
This biography was reviewed by Ronald L. Byrnside, The New Book of Knowledge®, Grolier Online. For more information on this online resource, visit Grolier.Online.