Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a precocious and gifted child. Born in Ukraine, he began piano lessons at the age of four and wrote his first opera before the age of ten. He studied piano and composition at the St Petersburg Conservatory and had the audacity to perform as his graduation concerto not a standard work from the repertory, but his newly written Piano Concerto No 1. Prokofiev spent many years overseas including lengthy periods in the United States and France. Works from this period include the Piano Concerto No 3 (premièred in Chicago in 1921), the opera The Love for Three Oranges (premièred in Chicago in 1923) and the Violin Concerto No 2 (premièred in Madrid in 1935). He returned to the Soviet Union in 1936, precisely the time when the political climate took a turn for the worse with curbs on artistic freedoms. Works from this period include Peter and the Wolf, the ballet Romeo and Juliet, the opera War and Peace, music for Sergei Eisenstein’s film Alexander Nevsky and the Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution. He had the misfortune to die on the same day as Joseph Stalin (5 March 1953). Stalin’s death stole the headlines while Prokofiev’s death was treated as a minor news item.

© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra