Prokofiev, Sergei Sergeyevich (syĭrgāˈ syĭrgāˈəvĭch prōkôfˈēĕf) [key], 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 Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.