SERGEI PROKOFIEV Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Name: Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev                                                           
Born: 27 April 1891                                                                         
Died: 5 March 1953                                                                           
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (born in Sontsivka (now Borysivka), Ukraine, Russian Empire     
on 27 April [O.S. 15 April] 1891–March 5, 1953 was a Soviet composer who                   
mastered numerous musical genres and came to be admired as one of the greatest               
composers of the 20th century.                                                               
Prokofiev displayed unusual musical abilities by the age of five. His first                 
piano composition to be written down (by his mother), an 'Indian Gallop', was in             
the key of F Lydian (F major with a B natural instead of B flat) as the young               
Prokofiev did not like to touch the black keys.  By the age of                               
seven, he had also learned to play chess. Much like music, chess would remain a             
passion his entire life, and he became acquainted with world chess champions                 
Capablanca and Botvinnik.                                                                   
At the age of nine he was composing his first opera, The Giant, as well as an               
overture and miscellaneous pieces.                                                           
In 1902 Prokofiev's mother obtained an audience with Sergei Taneyev, director of             
the Moscow Conservatoire. Taneyev suggested that Prokofiev should start lessons             
in composition with Alexander Goldenweiser, who declined, and Reinhold Glière.             
Glière visited Prokofiev in Sontsivka twice during the summer to teach him.                 
By then Prokofiev had already produced a number of innovative pieces. As soon as             
he had the necessary theoretical tools, he quickly started experimenting, laying             
the base for his own musical style.                                                         
After a while, Prokofiev felt that the isolation in Sontsivka was restricting               
his further musical development.  Although his parents were not                             
too keen on forcing their son into a musical career at such an early age,                   
in 1904 he moved to St. Petersburg and applied to the St. Petersburg                         
Conservatory, after encouragement by the director Alexander Glazunov, who was               
later unhappy with Prokofiev's music. By this point Prokofiev had composed                   
two more operas, Desert Islands and The Feast during the Plague and was working             
on his fourth, Undine. He passed the introductory tests and started his                     
composition studies the same year. Being several years younger than most of his             
classmates, he was viewed as eccentric and arrogant, and he often expressed                 
dissatisfaction with much of the education, which he found boring.                           
During this period he studied under, among others, Anatol Liadov, Nikolai                   
Tcherepnin, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Later, he would regret squandering his             
opportunity to learn more from Rimsky-Korsakov.  He also became                             
friends with Boris Asafiev and Nikolai Myaskovsky.                                           
As a member of the St. Petersburg music scene, Prokofiev eventually earned a                 
reputation as an enfant terrible, while also getting praise for his original                 
compositions, which he would perform himself on the piano. In 1909, he graduated             
from his class in composition, getting less than impressive marks. He continued             
at the Conservatory, but now concentrated on playing the piano and conducting.               
His piano lessons went far from smoothly, but the composition classes made an               
impression on him. His teacher encouraged his musical experimentation, and his               
works from this period display more intensity than earlier ones.                             
In 1910, Prokofiev's father died and Sergei's economic support ceased. Luckily,             
at that time, he had started making a name for himself as a composer, although               
he frequently caused scandals with his forward-looking works.                               
His first two piano concertos were composed around this time. He made his first             
excursion out of Russia in 1913, travelling to Paris and London where he first               
encountered Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.                                               
In 1914, Prokofiev left the Conservatory with the highest marks of his class, a             
feat which won him a grand piano. Soon afterwards, he made a trip to London                 
where he made contact with Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky.                                   
During World War I, Prokofiev returned again to the Academy, now studying the               
organ. He composed an opera based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel The Gambler, but             
the rehearsals were plagued by problems and the première scheduled for 1917 had             
to be cancelled because of the February Revolution. In summer the same year,                 
Prokofiev composed his first symphony, the Classical. This was his own name for             
the symphony which was written in the style that, according to Prokofiev, Joseph             
Haydn would have used if he had been alive at the time. Hence, the symphony                 
is more or less classical in style but incorporates more modern musical elements             
(see Neoclassicism). After a brief stay with his mother in Kislovodsk in the                 
Caucasus, because of worries of the enemy capturing Petrograd (the new name for             
St. Petersburg), he returned in 1918, but he was now determined to leave Russia,             
at least temporarily.  In the current Russian state of unrest,                               
he saw no room for his experimental music  and, in May, he                                   
headed for the USA.