Prokofiev, Sergey Sergeyevich (1891-1953), influential Russian composer, a major figure in 20th-century music. Born April 23, 1891, in Sontzovka, near Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovs'k, Ukraine), he studied with the Russian composers Reinhold Gličre and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. From 1918 to 1933 he lived in Europe, touring internationally as a pianist. He returned to his homeland in 1934.
Prokofiev's early works, such as the Piano Concerto No. 1 (1914) and the Scythian Suite for orchestra (1914), gained him a reputation as a musical iconoclast. During his expatriate years he composed for the Russian-born ballet impresario Sergey Diaghilev the ballets Chout (The Buffoon, 1921) and Le Pas d'Acier (The Age of Steel, 1927), an apotheosis of the industrialization then occurring in Russia. Also from this period are the operas The Love of Three Oranges (1921) and The Flaming Angel (1919; staged, 1955). His most important work from this period is the Classical Symphony (1918), which helped establish the neoclassical style that dominated much 20th-century music; it is a concise, irreverent work using modern harmonies and rhythms in the traditional 18th-century format.
After his return to Russia, Prokofiev maintained his musical idiom, and his works show extraordinary integrity under the pressure of the Soviet artistic dogma of “socialist realism.” They include Peter and the Wolf (1934), for narrator and orchestra; the ballet Romeo and Juliet (1936; performed 1940); the opera War and Peace (1946; revised 1952); the powerful Symphony No. 5 (1945); and, for film, the suite Lieutenant Kije (1933) and the cantata Alexander Nevsky (1938, for the film by the Soviet director Sergey Eisenstein). In 1948, although he had thus far been honored, he was officially censured for “excessive formalism” and cacophonous harmony. He promised more lyricism, but his opera Tale of a Real Man (1948) was again censured. He regained favor with his Symphony No. 7 (1952; Stalin Prize). He died March 5, 1953, in Moscow, as rehearsals began for his ballet Tale of the Stone Flower (1950; staged 1954).
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Sergey Sergeyevich Prokofiev biography
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