Sergej Prokofjew

Sergei Prokofiev was born in 1891 in Sonkova (today's Ukraine). He made his first attempts at composition at the age of five and dedicated himself to his first stage works in 1900 after seeing opera and ballet performances in Moscow. After his studies at the Moscow Conservatory and his first successes as a pianist and conductor, he was invited by Serge Diaghilev to compose his first ballet, Ala and Lolli, for the 1914-15 season. However, because of its musical proximity to Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky, Prokofiev has to withdraw the score. He reworks the musical material for the Scytian Suite, which is premiered in 1921. When revolution broke out in Russia in 1917 and the Tsar was forced to abdicate, Prokofiev was intensively occupied with the composition of the opera The Love for Three Oranges, among other works. He experiences the October Revolution only from a distance, as he is in the Caucasus at the time. At the beginning of the First World War, Prokofiev decides to travel to America for a longer period of time, as artistic progress in Russia does not seem possible under the given conditions. In New York he met the singer Lina Codina-Ljubera, later his first wife, whom he married in 1923 in the Ettal monastery in Upper Bavaria. In 1921 the second version of Le Chout becomes a sensational success in Paris. As his third score for the Ballets Russes, Prokofiev composed Le pas d'acier in 1927, a work about the Russian Revolution and the machine age. The fourth work, Le Fils Prodigue, followed in 1929. In 1932, Prokofiev was commissioned to compose the music for the film Lieutenant Kishe. This marks the beginning of Prokofiev's successful career as a film composer. After his final return to the Soviet Union in 1936, he composed two of the most frequently performed full-length ballet scores: Romeo and Juliet (1938) and Cinderella (1945). The Tale of the Stone Flower (1954) is hardly ever performed outside Russia. He is very aware of the increasing repressive measures against artists, but refrains from political commentary throughout his life. In 1938 he worked on the film music for Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky and met Mira Mendelson, whom he married in 1948. In 1940 Prokofiev begins work on Cinderella, a commission from the Kirov Theatre. At the same time, he drafts the plan for the opera War and Peace, based on Leo Tolstoy's novel. In 1948, Soviet cultural officials declare Prokofiev's music too formalistic and too Western. The ban on performances was lifted after a year, but the situation did not leave the composer unscathed. His health problems increase, but he nevertheless continues to work and tries to complete the ballet The Tale of the Stone Flower. Prokofiev died in Moscow on 5 March 1953.