Friday, April 27, 8891

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Sergei (Sergey, Serge)[Sergeyevich] Prokofiev (Prokofief, Prokofieff, Prokofyev) (April 27, 1891, Sontsivka [Borysivka], Ukraine - March 5, 1953) displayed unusual musical abilities by the age of five. His first piano composition, written down by his mother, was an Indian Gallop, in F Lydian, as the young Prokofiev did not like to touch the black keys.

By seven, he had also learned to play chess, which, like music, would remain a passion his entire life.

At nine, he composed his first opera, The Giant, as well as an overture and miscellaneous pieces.

In 1902, Prokofiev's mother obtained an audience with Moscow Conservatory Director Sergei Taneyev, who suggested that Prokofiev should study composition with Alexander Goldenweiser

and Reinhold Glière.

Glière visited Prokofiev in Sontsivka twice during the summer. By then, the young composer had already produced a number of innovative pieces, and, as soon as he had the necessary theoretical tools, he quickly started experimenting, laying the base for his own style.

In 1904 at 13, he moved to St. Petersburg and applied to St. Petersburg Conservatory, after encouragement by the director Alexander Glazunov, who was later unhappy with Prokofiev's music.

By this point Prokofiev had composed two more operas, Desert Islands and The Feast During the Plague and was working on a fourth, Undine.

Being several years younger than most of his classmates, he was viewed as eccentric and arrogant, and he often expressed dissatisfaction with much of the education, which he found boring.

During this period he studied with, among others, Anatol Liadov,

Nikolai Tcherepnin, and

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Later, Prokofiev would regret squandering his opportunity to learn more from the latter.

He also became friends with Nikolai Myaskovsky, 30 years his senior.

As a member of the St. Petersburg music scene, Prokofiev eventually earned a reputation as an enfant terrible, while also getting praise for his original compositions, which he would perform on piano. In 1909, the young composer graduated from his class in composition, getting less than stellar marks. He continued at the Conservatory, concentrating on piano and conducting. His piano lessons went far from smoothly, but the composition classes made an impression on him. His teacher encouraged his musical experimentation, and his works from this period display more intensity than earlier ones


Piano Sonata no. 1 in F Minor, Op. 1 (1909)

Four Piano Etudes, Op. 2 (1909)

Sinfonietta in A Major, Op. 5 (1909)

Dreams, symphonic tableau for large orchestra, Op. 6 (1910)

Two Poems of K.Balmont for female chorus and orchestra, Op. 7 (1910)

Autumn, symphonic sketch for small symphonic orchestra, Op. 8 (1910)


In 1910, Prokofiev's father died and Sergei's economic support ceased. Luckily, at that time, he had started making a name for himself, although he frequently caused scandals with his forward-looking works.


Four Pieces for Piano, Op. 3 (1911)

Two Poems of K.Balmont and A.Apukhtin for voice and piano, Op. 9 (1911)

Four Pieces for Piano, Op. 4 (1912)

Piano Concerto no. 1 in Db Major, Op. 10 (1911/1912)

Toccata in C Major for piano, Op. 11 (1912)

Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 12 (1913)

Maddalena, opera in 1 act, Op. 13 (1911/1913)

Piano Sonata No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 14 (1912)

Ballade in C Minor for violoncello and piano, Op. 15 (1912)

Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 16 (1913)


Prokofiev made his first excursion out of Russia in 1913, travelling to Paris and London where he first encountered Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.

In 1914, Prokofiev left the Conservatory with the highest marks of his class, a feat which won him a grand piano. Soon afterwards, he made a trip to London where he made contact with Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky. Aspects of Sarcasms, five pieces for piano, Op. 17 (1914); The Ugly Duckling for voice and piano (or orchestra), Op. 18 (1914); and Scythian Suite from the ballet Ala i Lolli for large symphonic orchestra, op. 20 (1915); may be heard as Prokofiev's response to the primitivism of The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky's great work of 1913.


The Tale of the Buffoon (Chout), ballet in 6 scenes, Op. 21 (1915)

Five Poems of V. Goryansky, Z. Gippius, B. Verin, K. Balmont and N. Agnitsev for voice and piano, Op. 23 (1915)

Five Poems by A. Achmatova for voice and piano, Op. 27 (1916)

Violin Concerto 1o. 1 in D Major, Op. 19 (1917)

Visions Fugitives, 20 pieces for piano (or orchestra), Op. 22 (1917)


During World War I, Prokofiev returned again to the Academy, now studying the organ. He composed an opera based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel The Gambler (opera in 4 acts, Op. 24, 1917, a subject later taken up by Dmitri Shostakovich), but the rehearsals were plagued by problems and the première scheduled for 1917 had to be cancelled because of the Russian Revolution, in February of that year.


Piano Sonata no. 3 ("From Old Notebooks") in A Minor, Op. 28 (1917)

Piano Sonata no. 4 ("From Old Notebooks") in C minor, Op. 29 (1917)


That summer, Prokofiev composed his

Symphony No. 1 in D Major ("Classical"), Op. 25 (1917)

I. Allegro

This was his own name for the work, characterized as written in a style that F.J. Haydn would have he been in Prokofiev's time, anticipating Stravinsky's thorough-going neoclassicism of the 1920's to 50's.


They Are Seven, cantata for dramatic tenor, mixed chorus, and large symphonic orchestra, Op. 30 (1918)

Tales of an Old Grandmother, four pieces for piano, Op 31 (1918)

Four Pieces for Piano, Op. 32 (1918)


After a brief stay with his mother in Kislovodsk in the Caucasus, because of worries of the enemy capturing Petrograd (St. Petersburg), Prokofiev returned in 1918, but in May, left for the U.S.

Arriving in San Francisco, he was immediately compared to other famous Russian exiles

(such as Sergei Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky), and he started out successfully with a solo concert in New York, leading to several further engagements. He also received a contract for the production of his new opera The Love for Three Oranges but, due to illness and the death of the director, the première was cancelled. This was another example of Prokofiev's bad luck in operatic matters. The failure also cost him his American solo career, since the opera took so much of his attention.


Love for Three Oranges, Op. 33 (1919)



He soon found himself in financial difficulties, and, in April 1920, returned to Paris, where he reaffirmed his contacts with the Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and Stravinsky.


Overture on Hebrew Themes in C minor, Op. 34 (1919)

Five Songs without Words for voice and piano, Op. 35 (1920)


Later, in December, The Love for Three Oranges finally received a mixed premièred in Chicago, obliging Prokofiev to again leave America without triumph.

Prokofiev then moved with his mother to the Bavarian Alps for over a year so he could concentrate fully on his composing.


Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26 (1921)

Five Poems of K. Balmont for voice and piano, Op. 36 (1921)

The Flaming Angel, opera in 5 acts, after the novel by Valery Bryusov, Op. 37 (1923)

Piano Sonata No. 5 in C Major, Op. 38 (1923)

In 1923, he married the Spanish singer Lina Llubera (1897-1989), and moved back to Paris.


Quintet in G Minor for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and double bass, Op. 39 (1924)


There, a number of his works (for example the Symphony No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 40, 1925) were performed, but critical reception was lukewarm, perhaps because he could no longer really lay claim to being a "novelty." He did not particularly like Stravinsky's later works and, even though he was quite friendly with members of Les Six, he musically had very little in common with them.


The Steel Step (Le Pas d'Acier), ballet in 2 scenes, Op. 41 (1925/1926)

American Overture in Bb Major for chamber orchestra, Op. 42 (1926)


Around 1927, Prokofiev's situation brightened, with commissions from Diaghilev and tours in Russia, including a very successful staging of The Love for Three Oranges in Leningrad (Saint Petersburg / Petrograd). Two older operas (one of them The Gambler) were also played in Europe and in 1928 Prokofiev produced his Symphony No. 3, derived from The Flaming Angel.

Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 44 (1928)

I Moderato (excerpt from the development)


Things in Themselves (Choses en Soi), two pieces for piano, Op. 45 (1928)

Divertissement for orchestra, Op. 43 (1929)

The Prodigal Son, ballet in 3 scenes, Op. 46 (1929)


In 1929, he suffered a car accident, which slightly injured his hands and prevented him from touring in Moscow, but in turn permitted him to enjoy contemporary Russian music. After his hands healed, he made a new attempt at touring in the United States, and this time he was received very warmly. This, in turn, propelled him to commence a major tour through Europe.


Sinfonietta in A major, Op. 48 (1929, revision of Op. 5)

Symphony No. 4 in C Major, Op. 47 (1930)

Four Portraits and Daenouement from The Gambler for large orchestra, Op. 49 (1931)

String Quartet No. 1 in B Minor, Op. 50 (1930)

Six Pieces for Piano (1931)

Piano Concerto No. 4 in Bb Major ("Left Hand"), Op. 53 (1931, for Paul Wittgenstein)

Two Sonatinas in E minor and G major for piano, Op. 54 (1932)

Piano Concerto no. 5 in G major, Op. 55 (1932)

Duo Violin Sonata in C Major, Op. 56 (1932)


Prokofiev was soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Piero Coppola, in the first recording of Piano Concerto No. 3, recorded in London by R.C.A. Victor in June 1932. The recording has exceptionally clear sound and Prokofiev's own virtuosic performance remains very impressive.


Symphonic Song for large orchestra, Op. 57 (1933)


During the early 1930's, Prokofiev moved more and more of his premières and commissions to Russia. One such was Lieutenant Kije, Op. 60 (Suite for orchestra with baritone ad libretto, including Troika, 1934) which was initially commissioned as the score to the Russian film.


Suite from "Egyptian Nights" for orchestra, Op. 61 (1934)

Thoughts (Penséés), three pieces for piano, Op. 63 (1934)

In 1935, Prokofiev moved back to the Soviet Union permanently, but with his family following a year after. At this time, the official Soviet policy towards music changed; a special bureau, The Composers' Union was established in order to keep track of the artists and their doings, and regulations were drawn up outlining what kind of music was acceptable. By limiting outside influences, these policies would gradually cause almost complete isolation of composers from the rest of the world.


Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63 (1935)

Music for Children, 12 easy pieces, Op. 65 (1935)


Willing to adapt to the new circumstances (whatever misgivings he had about them in private), Prokofiev wrote a series of "mass songs" (Op. 66, 79, 89), using the lyrics of officially approved Soviet poets.


Six Songs for voice and piano, Op. 66 (1935)

Romeo and Juliet, ballet in 4 scenes, Op. 64 (1936, commissionedby the Kirov Theare, Leningrad)


Peter and the Wolf
, a children's tale for narrator and orchestra, Op. 67 (1936)

Solfege of main theme -- first four bars:

Sol Do Mi Sol La Sol Mi
Sol La Ti Do Sol Mi Do Re
Me Me Ti Me Me Ti
Me Te TeHarmonically, C: I I64 I I64 bVI bVI64 bIII bIII64


The Queen of Spades, film score, Op. 70 (1936)

Evgeny Onegin for orchestra, Op. 71 (1936)

Russian Overture for symphonic orchestra, Op. 72 (1936)

Three Romances on Words by Pushkin for voice and piano, Op. 73 (1936)

Four Marches for military band, Op. 69 (1937)

Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution for 2 choruses, orchestra, band, accordion band and percussion, military band, Op. 74 (1937, never performed)

Songs of Our Times for solo voices, mixed chorus and symphonic orchestra, Op. 76 (1937)

Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 58 (1938)

Hamlet for orchestra (1938)


In 1938, Prokofiev collaborated with the great Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein on the historical epic Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78 cantata for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra.


Three Children's Songs for voice and piano, Op. 68 (1939)

Seven Songs for voice and piano, Op. 79 (1939)


The premiere of Semyon Kotko, opera in 5 acts, Op. 81 (1939) was postponed because the producer Vsevolod Meyerhold was imprisoned and executed).

Zdravnitsa (Hail to Stalin, Op. 85, 1939) secured Prokofiev's position as a Soviet composer and put an end to persecution.


Piano Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 82 (1940)

Betrothal in a Monastery (The Duenna), opera in 4 acts, Op. 86 (1941)

Symphonic March in Bb Major for large orchestra, Op. 88 (1941)

The Year 1941, symphonic suite for large orchestra, Op. 90 (1941)

String Quartet No. 2 in F Major ("On Kabardinian Themes"), Op. 92 (1941)


Prokofiev suffered the first of several heart attacks at 50, in 1941, resulting in a gradual decline in health. Because of World War II, he was periodically evacuated to the south together with a large number of other artists. This had consequences for his family life in Moscow, and his relationship with the 25-year-old Mira Mendelson (1915-1968 -- half his age) finally led to his separation from his wife Lina, although they remained married for the next seven years. It should be mentioned that marriage with foreigners had been made illegal and some believe that the breakup with his wife was forced.


Piano Sonata No. 7 in Bb Major, Op. 83 (1942)

Seven Mass Songs and a March in A major for voices and piano, Op. 89 (1942)

Three Pieces for Piano, Op. 96 (1942)

War and Peace, opera in 5 acts, Op. 91 (1943)

Ballad of an Unknown Boy, cantata for soprano, tenor, chorus and orchestra, Op. 93 (1943)

Flute Sonata in D Major, Op. 94 (1943)

Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 94a (1943, transcription of the Flute Sonata)

Soviet National Anthem, Op. 98 (1943)

Piano Sonata No. 8 in Bb Major, Op. 84 (1944)

Cinderella, ballet in 3 scenes, Op. 87 (1944)

Three Pieces for Piano, Op. 59 (1944)

March in Bb Major [No. 2] for military band, Op. 99 (1944)


In 1944, Prokofiev moved to an estate outside of Moscow, to compose his Symphony No. 5.


Symphony No. 5 in Bb Major , Op. 100 (1944)

II Allegro marcato (excerpt from restatement/transformation of first theme)

On February 20, 1948, the same year Prokofiev married Mira, his newly-ex-wife Lina was arrested for "espionage," as she tried to send money to her mother in Spain. She was sentenced to 20 years, but was eventually released after Stalin's death and later left the Soviet Union.

Prokofiev's latest opera projects were quickly cancelled by the Kirov Theatre. This snub, in combination with his declining health, caused Prokofiev to withdraw more and more from active musical life. His doctors ordered him to limit his activities, which resulted in him spending only an hour or two each day on composition.


Ivan the Terrible, film score, Op. 116 (1944, for Sergei Eisenstein)

Twelve Russian Folk Songs for voice and piano, Op. 104 (1944)

Ode to the End of the War for 8 harps, 4 pianos, and orchestra of woodwinds, percussion and contrabasses, Op. 105 (1945)

Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 80 (1946, begun before, but completed after the Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, 1943, Op. 94a)

Piano Sonata No. 9 in C Major, Op. 103 (1947)

Symphony No. 6 in Eb Minor, Op. 111 (1947)

Thirty Years, festive poem for symphonic orchestra, Op. 113 (1947)

Flourish, Mighty Land, cantata for the 30th anniversary of the October revolution for chorus and orchestra, Op. 114 (1947)

Unaccompanied Violin Sonata in D Major, Op. 115 (1947)

The Story of a Real Man, opera in 4 acts, Op. 117 (1948)

Cello Sonata in C Major, Op. 119 (1949)

Pushkin Waltzes for symphonic orchestra, Op. 120 (1949)

Soldiers' Marching Song, Op. 121 (1950)

Winter Bonfire, suite for narrators, boy's chorus and symphonic orchestra, Op. 122 (1950)

On Guard for Peace, oratorio for mezzosoprano, narrators, mixed chorus, boy's chorus and orchestra, Op. 124 (1950)

Symphony-Concertante in E Minor for violoncello and orchestra, Op. 125 (1951)

The Meeting of the Volga and the Don, festive poem for symphonic orchestra, Op. 130 (1951)


The last public performance of his lifetime was the première of the Symphony No. 7 in C# Minor, Op. 131, in 1952, a piece of somewhat bittersweet character, for which Prokofiev was asked to substitute a cheerful ending.


Cello Concertino in G Minor, Op. 132 (1952)

Double Piano Concerto [No. 6], with string orchestra, Op. 133 (1952)

Cello Sonata in C# Minor, Op. 134 (1952)

The Tale of the Stone Flower, ballet in 4 scenes, Op. 118 (1953)

Piano Sonata No. 10 in C Minor, Op. 137 (1953)

Piano Sonata No. 11, Op. 138 (1953)

Prokofiev died at 61 on March, 1953, the same day as Stalin. The composer had lived near Red Square, and for three days the throngs, gathered to mourn Stalin, made it impossible to carry Prokofiev's body out for the funeral service at the headquarters of the Soviet Composer's Union. Paper flowers and a taped recording of the funeral march from Romeo and Juliet had to be used, as all real flowers and musicians were reserved for Stalin's funeral. Prokofiev is buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

Usually Prokofiev's death is attributed to cerebral haemorrhage (bleeding into the brain). He was persistently ill for eight years before he died, and was plagued during that length of time by headaches, nausea and dizziness.

Igor Stravinsky characterized him as the greatest Russian composer of his day, other than Stravinsky himself.

Lina Prokofieva outlived her ex-husband (and Mira) by many years, dying in London in early 1989. Royalties from her late husband's music provided her a modest income. Their sons Sviatoslav (b. 1924), an architect, and Oleg (1928-1998), an artist, painter, sculptor and poet, have dedicated a large part of their lives to the promotion of their father's life and work.


Alvin Pleasant Delaney Carter (December 15, 1891 - November 7, 1960), best known as A.P. Carter, was an American musician and founding member of The Carter Family group, one of the most notable acts in the history of country music.

A.P. Carter was born to Robert C. Carter and Mollie Arvelle Bays in Maces Spring, Virginia (then known as Poor Valley). A.P. was sometimes called "Doc."

On June 18, 1915, he married Sara Dougherty and they had three children: Gladys (Millard), Janette (Jett), and Joe. In 1927, he formed the Carter Family band together with his wife. They were joined by Sara's cousin, Maybelle, who was married to A.P.'s brother, Ezra Carter, and they together formed the first commercial rural country music group. Carter was known for traveling extensively throughout the country and collecting and blending songs, particularly from Appalachian musicians.

Some of the songs became so closely identified with A. P. Carter that he has been popularly, but mistakenly, credited with writing them. For example, "Keep on the Sunny Side of Life" was published in 1901 with the words being credited to Ada Blenkhorn and the music credited to Howard Entwisle, and "The Meeting in the Air" has been published giving credit for music and words to I. G. Martin.

A.P. and Sara separated in 1932, in part as a result of Sara having an affair with A.P.'s cousin, due to A.P.'s long absences from home in search of new musical ideas. They officially divorced in 1939. The band remained together for several years afterwards, but broke up in 1943. While Maybelle and her daughters continued to tour as The Carter Family, A.P. left the music business to run a general store in Virginia. In 1952, A.P. reformed The Carter Family with Sara and some of their grown children; the reunion lasted until 1956.

A.P. Carter died in Kingsport, Tennessee on November 7, 1960 at the age of 68.

He was buried in the Mount Vernon Methodist Church Cemetery in Hiltons, Virginia.

Despite dying in relative obscurity, A. P. Carter was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. Carter was inducted as part of The Carter Family in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970.

In 1993, his image appeared on a U.S. postage stamp honoring the Carter Family. In 2001 he was inducted posthumously into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.

PBS aired a one-hour show on A.P. Carter and the Carter Family on American Experience.
In recent years, The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia has performed a play based on A.P.'s life called "Keep On The Sunny Side."

[8892 Honegger / 8891 Prokofiev / 8890 Morton]