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April 27th is Sergei Prokofiev 130th Birthday

On April 27th we celebrate the birth of the great Russian/Soviet composer Sergei Prokofiev. He would have turned 130 years old on that day.

Prokofiev is recognized as one of the 20th century’s musical giants. He was a pianist and conductor, but first and foremost, an incredibly creative, innovative and prolific composer, whose music covered a vast variety of genres.

Perhaps his best-known works are wonderful ballets (Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella) and his orchestral suite Peter and the Wolf. However, he also composed operas (his very first one, The Giant, was composed at the tender age of nine!), along with symphonies, instrumental concerti, chamber music, vocal works of all sizes, and many works for the piano, including sonatas and other works, such as Toccata, Sarcasms, Tales of an Old Grandmother, and Visions Fugitives, which is part of IOC’s sixth concert in the IOC Stars in Concert series.

Prokofiev was also a prolific film composer, creating notable scores for movies such as Lieutenant Kije (also known as Orchestra Suite), Alexander Nevsky (also known as Cantata), Ivan the Terrible, and many others. It's been said that film directors especially loved working with him, as he had a gift for being able to

capture the changing moods and visuals of any particular movie scene on the spot, and reflect it flawlessly in his music.

Prokofiev came from a musical family. His mother was a dedicated and accomplished pianist, and she was the one who introduced him to music

and helped him write down his first compositions. Prokofiev entered St. Petersburg conservatory in 1904 when he was just 13 years old, and was younger than all his classmates. Legend has it that upon acceptance, while acknowledging his obvious talent, young Sergei was told that his compositions were "very simple.” Apparently as a response, Prokofiev started to work on his individual composition style and the results were innovative and sometimes too "new" and shocking for his teachers and listeners!

Time puts everything in perspective and we now recognize Prokofiev as a great innovator. But we also see him firmly rooted in the traditions of the past, such as his Russian composer predecessors like Mussorgsky, and Western classical composers such as his beloved Haydn. We admire his modern harmonies as well as his lush melodic lines.

It's very interesting to compare Prokofiev with another great Russian composer, Rachmaninov, whose birthday we recently celebrated with our program of his vocal and piano music. A lot can be said about the two. The most obvious observation is that Rachmaninov nostalgically looks back and summarizes the wealth and beauty of Romantic music, while Prokofiev fearlessly explores new horizons and opens fresh chapters of music expressivity. Both approaches are admirable and enrich our lives enormously.

Independent Opera Company is working on and will soon release a concert based on Prokofiev’s piano work Visions Fugitives. This beautiful and imaginative work will be performed on piano by Galina Barskaya and choreographed/danced by Liza Barskaya. Please stay tuned as more information is coming soon.


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