Prokofiev, Sergei

Prokofiev may well be the most popular composer of 20th century music. His orchestral music alone is played more frequently in the United States than that of any other composer of the last hundred years, save Richard Strauss, while his operas, ballets, chamber works, and piano music appear regularly throughout the major concert halls world-wide.

Yet he has never won the admiration of Western academics and critics currently enjoyed by Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg, composers purported to have a greater influence on a younger generation of musicians. While his Symphony No. 1, Op. 25, “Classical” is likely the first definitive neo-classical composition, arriving 4–5 years before such works as Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, some contend that “the movement started in earnest with Stravinsky”, or even cite the influence of Stravinsky’s neo-classicism on Prokofiev.

Nor has Prokofiev’s biography captured the imagination of the public, in the way that Shostakovich appeared, for example, in sources such as Volkov’s Testimony, as an impassioned dissident. Whilst Arthur Honegger proclaimed that Prokofiev would “remain for us the greatest figure of contemporary music”, his reputation in the West has suffered greatly as a result of cold-war antipathies.

But Prokofiev’s music and his reputation stand well-positioned to benefit from the demise of cultural politics. His fusion of melody and modernism and his “gift, virtually unparalleled among 20th-century composers, for writing distinctively original diatonic melodies”, may stand him in good stead as we begin to appreciate the unique genius of this most prolific and enigmatic of composers.


Sergei Prokofiev – Wikipedia