Sergei Prokofiev

Prokofiev, Sergei Sergeyevich

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (syĬrgā´ syĬrgā´əvĬch prōkôf´ēĕf), 1891–1953, Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Prokofiev achieved wide popularity with his lively music, in which he achieved a pungent mixture of modern and traditional elements. He was a pupil of Reinhold Glière and of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In 1918 he toured through Siberia and Japan to the United States, where he settled for a short time. He lived in Paris from 1922 to 1933, when he returned permanently to the USSR, although he visited Europe and the United States several times until 1938. Among his important works are seven symphonies, especially the First, the Classical Symphony (1916–17), and the Fifth (1944); two violin concertos; five piano concertos; nine sonatas and other piano music; and chamber music. His operas include The Gambler (1915–16; rev. 1927; Brussels, 1929), after Feodor Dostoyevsky; The Love for Three Oranges (1921), after Carlo Gozzi; Betrothal in a Convent (1940; 1946), based on Richard Sheridan's Duenna; and War and Peace (1943; rev. version, 1952), after Leo Tolstoy. Other works are the ballets Chout (The Buffoon, 1921), Le Pas d'acier (1927), and Romeo and Juliet (1935–36; 1940); the symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf (1936); and suites from the scores for the films Lieutenant Kije (1933) and Alexander Nevsky (1938). Prokofiev's early works are often harsh and strident, deliberately avoiding emotionalism. Later he wrote in a more simplified, popular style, although he never lost his individuality. He used sharp and vigorous rhythms, and he was a master of orchestration. His own virtuosity at the piano is reflected in the brilliance of his piano music.

See his autobiography (tr. 1959); selected letters ed. by H. Robinson (1998); his diaries, ed. and tr. by A. Phillips (3 vol., tr. 2006–12); biographies by I. Nestyev (rev. ed. tr. 1960), V. Seroff (1968), C. Samuel (tr. 1971), and H. Robinson (1987, repr. 2002); S. Morrison, The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years (2008).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Sergei Prokofiev: Selected full-text books and articles

Prokofiev By Israel V. Nestyev; Florence Jonas Stanford University Press, 1960
Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement By Simon Morrison University of California Press, 2002
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Prokofiev and Mimesis"
Soviet Music and Society under Lenin and Stalin: The Baton and Sickle By Neil Edmunds RoutledgeCurzon, 2004
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Prokofiev's Le Pas d'Acier: How the Steel Was Tempered"
Conductors on Composers By John L. Holmes Greenwood Press, 1993
Librarian's tip: "Sergey Prokofiev (1891-1953)" begins on p. 134
Composers on Composers By John L. Holmes Greenwood Press, 1990
Librarian's tip: "Sergey Prokofiev (1891-1953)" begins on p. 110
The Concerto By Ralph Hill Penguin Books, 1952
Librarian's tip: Chap. 26 "Serge Prokofiev (1891-)"
Victor Book of Concertos By Abraham Veinus Simon and Schuster, 1948
Librarian's tip: "Serge Prokofiev, 1891" begins on p. 330
Twentieth-Century Music: A History of Musical Style in Modern Europe and America By Robert P. Morgan W. W. Norton, 1991
Librarian's tip: "Prokofiev" begins on p. 238
An Introduction to Twentieth Century Music By Peter S. Hansen Allyn and Bacon, 1961
Librarian's tip: "Prokoviev, 1891-1953" begins on p. 268
The Symphony: A Listener's Guide By Michael Steinberg Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: "Sergei Prokofiev" begins on p. 426
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera By John Warrack; Ewan West Oxford University Press, 1996 (3rd edition)
Librarian's tip: "Prokofiev, Sergey" begins on p. 414
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