Sergei Prokofiev (27 April 1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor who worked in the Soviet Union later in his career. He is regarded as one of the significant composers of the twentieth century, having created recognized masterpieces in various musical genres. The March from The Love for Three Oranges, the suite Lieutenant Kijé, the ballet Romeo and Juliet—from which "Dance of the Knights" is taken—and Peter and the Wolf are his most well-known compositions. In addition, he composed seven finished operas, seven symphonies, eight ballets, five piano concertos, two violin concertos, a cello concerto, a symphony concerto for cello and orchestra, and nine completed piano sonatas, among the established forms and genres in which he worked. Prokofiev, a graduate of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, rose to prominence as an outspoken composer-pianist with a series of viciously discordant and virtuosic compositions for his instrument, including his first two piano concertos. Prokofiev established a decisive break from the usual composer-pianist with his symphonic Scythian Suite, constructed from music initially composed for a ballet commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballets Russes group in 1915. Diaghilev commissioned three more ballets from Prokofiev: Chout, Le pas d'acier, and The Prodigal Son, all of which created a stir among reviewers and colleagues when they were first performed. However, opera was Prokofiev's true passion, and he composed several operas, notably The Gambler and The Fiery Angel. The Love for Three Oranges, created for the Chicago Opera and then performed in Europe and Russia throughout the next decade, was Prokofiev's only operatic hit during his lifetime.
Prokofiev fled Russia after the 1917 Revolution, with the consent of Soviet People's Commissar Anatoly Lunacharsky, and lived in the United States, Germany, and finally, Paris, earning a living as a composer-pianist and conductor. He married Carolina (Lina) Codina, a Spanish singer with whom he had two sons before divorcing in 1947. The Great Depression limited the prospects for Prokofiev's ballets and operas to be presented in America and Western Europe in the early 1930s. Prokofiev, who saw himself first and foremost as a composer, despised the time spent touring as a pianist and increasingly turned to the Soviet Union for fresh music commissions; in 1936, he and his family ultimately returned to their motherland. Lieutenant Kijé, Peter and the Wolf, Romeo and Juliet, Alexander Nevsky, the Fifth Symphony, and the Piano Sonatas Nos. 6–8 were among his greatest Soviet hits. Prokofiev's most ambitious piece, an operatic adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, was inspired by the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union; he co-wrote the libretto with Mira Mendelson, his lifelong lover and subsequently his second wife. As a result, Prokofiev was accused of creating an "anti-democratic formality" in 1948. Nonetheless, he received emotional and artistic support from a new generation of Russian musicians, particularly Sviatoslav Richter and Mstislav Rostropovich. He composed his ninth piano sonata and Symphony-Concerto.
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