l A many sided composer.
l A man of both the west (Europe and America) and
the east (Soviet Russia).
l Many strands to his compositional career – daring
modernist – tame Socialist realist.
l Career went gradually downhill from a very
l Suffered real privation and difficulty after the war.
l Died on the same day as Stalin and was
increasingly persecuted towards the end of his life.
Unclassifiable?l ‘It is impossible to classify the personality
of Sergei Prokofiev for he is neither the
leader of a school, nor an innovator. It must
surely be a difficult job for any critic to
attempt to analyse him, or place him in any
way in a period or a movement.’
l Gian Francesco Malipiero.
l 8. Contrast the music styles and
personalities of Profokiev and
Khachacurian. How did their experiences of
living in the Soviet Union affect their
musical development? Use a range of
l 10. What was ‘socialist realism’ and how
did it translate in terms of musical styles.
Take works by at least two composers of the
Soviet era and show how socialist realism
informed these works.
l Composer Pianist.
l Two careers – outside of Soviet Russia –
l Range of styles – from neo-classical to
l Life of early success and then restriction
and near persecution.
l Operas (seldom performed)
l Films (nearest to Socialist realist)
l Ballets (best known works today)
l Symphonies (very varied from classical to avante
l Concertos (still played and loved by soloists
l Soviet Works (in praise of Stalin and Socialist –
l Piano works (played a lot – option for Grade VIII
this year and last)
Today we are looking at
l Classical Symphony
l Romeo and Juliet – ballet and suite
l Piano Concerto no. 3
l Alexander Nevsky – Film and Cantata
l Symphony no. 5
l Pianist Prodigy. b.1891. Father a scientist –
mother devoted to the piano.
l Composing at 6 with his mother.
l Taken to Moscow at 8 and the opera –
wrote his own opera The Giant in response.
l Taught by Reinhold Gliere – who travelled
out to teach him from 1902. Lots of chess.
l 1903 first compositions Symphony in 4
mvts and The Orgy during the plague.
l St Petersburg Conservatoire – 1904 – under
Glazunov. Entrance exam. Hated hamony
lessons but got on with Miaskovsky.
Studied with Rimsky-Korskov.
l Sonata no.1 1909
l Continued with lessons in conducting and
piano. Continued to compose. First piano
concerto 1912. Vehement rhythm.
l Lots of them – second concerto – the
audience hated it and walked out – some
l Played in Rubinstein competition.
Prokofiev won and played his own concerto
no. 1 – but Glazunov hated it and did not
want to read out results.
Classical Symphony op.25
l After winning the Rubinstein prize 1914 went to London
to see Ballet Russe under Diaghilev – result was the
l Meets Stravinsky – but they never got on – and Prokofiev
never made the same impact.
l Ballet Chout (The Buffoon) for Diaghilev. Large orchestra
without a soloist. First performed 1921. Overshadowed by
Rite of Spring.
l Always fantastic themes and melodies – easy and
l Classical suite – composed without piano.
Tried to compose with themes like Hadyn –
but not as a pastiche. The sort of piece
Haydn would have composed had he lived
in the 20th century. Classical orchestra.
l Performed in Petrograd 1918.
l Opera – The Gambler 1918.
l Prokofiev left in 1918 for America.
l ‘Take one Schoenberg, two Ornsteins, a
little Satie, mix with some Medtner, add a
drop of Shumann, then a shade of Scriabin
and Stravinsky, and you will have a cocktail
resembling the music of Prokofiev’.
l Critic of Musical American.
l Made it as a concert pianist who played his
own concertos (1 and 2).
l Opera – The Love of Three Oranges – own
libretto in French – success in Chicago but
not in New York.
Piano Concerto no.3
l Sketched in 1916, worked on in America
and finished in France. Neither neo-classical
l Seen in America as a pianist not a
l 1922 moves to France - The Ballet Russe
l A success as a pianist/composer.
l Paris – Les Six – he got on with Poulenc.
And was feted in 1923. A rigorous pianist –
practised a great deal.
l Symphony no.2 – more avant gaude.
l Ballets – The Steel Trot and Le Pas d’Acier’
l Toured a great deal as a pianist.
l Russian Tour – lots of his works performed.
l Feted and made much of – but allowed to
come and go freely. Writes his famous
Russian Diary. Plays a great deal of chess.
Got married – to a Spanish/Russian singer –
l Meets Oistrakh, Shostakovich and all Soviet
Soviet Diary 1927
l P kept diaries and journals all his life.
l His diary of his visit in 1927 is one of the
best insights into what it was like in Soviet
Union before Stalin really took over.
l P and his new wife meet everyone who is
important in the music spheres. He plays
and conducts – but above all socialises with
Visiting the old conservatoire
l ‘we were quickly led to the director’s office, the very one at 13 I had
my entrance examination. Several familiar professors were waiting for
us and others kept arriving, Asafiev, Ossovsky, Niloaev, Malko,
l Malko was already telling a story about how upset Glasunov gets when
the portrait of Rubinstein hangs askew. A student once noticed that
Glazunov always got up to straighten it; so now, whenever there is a
meeting in the director’s office (nowadays student representatives take
part in meetings), someone slightly tilts the portrait of Rubinstein
beforehand, and everybody eagerly waits for the moment when
Glazunov will get up and set it straight.
Returned to Paris
l 1927-33 The Flaming Angel – Symphony
no.3. Ballet the Prodigal Son (success) for
l Lots of big pieces – concertos and
symphonies – (piano concerto for left hand).
Has two sons with Lina.
l Return to Russia for Celebrations
surrounding Puskin’s death. Iron curtain fell
in 1938 after last American Tour.
l ‘When one comes back to USSR from
abroad, one has the feeling of something
quite different. Here, there exists a need for
theatrical creation and there can be no doubt
as to the kind of subject which is to inspire
it: it must be heroic and constructive, for
these are the attributes which most clearly
characterise the present time.