Spotlight on a composer: The brilliant Sergei Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev was a pianist, conductor and is considered one of the major composers of the 20th century. Born on the 23rd of April 1891, Sergei grew up in Sontsovka (now Krasne) in the Ukraine and was described as a prodigy.

From a young age, Sergei was taught how to play piano by his mother and began composing from the age of five. At the age of nine he was composing his first opera, The Giant and at the age of eleven he began piano lessons and tutoring with Reinhold Glière. In 1904 his family made the move to Saint Petersburg in Russia to provide better chances and education to the talented youngster. At the age of 13 he enrolled in Saint Petersburg Conservatory where he studied although he often displayed his disinterest in the curriculum saying it was boring. He was described as being ahead of his time and experimenting with musical techniques that others were not using.

Sergei wrote symphonic music, ballets, operas and music for films. His well-known pieces include the 1936 ballet Romeo and Juliet, the ballet Cinderella, The Love for Three Oranges and Peter and the Wolf which was written for Russia’s Central Children’s Theatre. During his lifetime Sergei travelled Europe, living in Paris, the United States and even the Bavarian Alps for some time.  During his travelling he wrote many symphonies and went on grand tours.

In 1932 he married singer Carolina Codina. They had 2 children together, Oleg and Sviatoslav, but divorced in 1941 after 18 years of marriage. He later married Mira Mendelson in 1948. In 1936 aged 45, Sergei returned to Moscow in Russia where he lived until his death in 1953. Sergei passed away on the 5th of March aged 61.

“In my view, the composer, just as the poet, the sculptor or the painter, is in duty bound to serve Man, the people. He must beautify human life and defend it. He must be a citizen first and foremost, so that his art might consciously extol human life and lead man to a radiant future. Such is the immutable code of art as I see it.”

Did You Know?

In addition to being a musical genius, Sergei also knew how to play chess. He learnt to play chess from his dad at the age of seven. He went on to be a great chess player, even beating many professionals. He loved having a chess set sitting on his piano as he played.

Sergei Prokofiev’s Rome and Juliet performed by Viviana Durante and Angel Corella

'Romeo and Juliet' - Balcony scene - Composed by Sergei Prokofiev and Choreographed by Kenneth Macmillian.

Romeo and Juliet Act I - Pas de Deux.