1891 - 1953
Sergei Prokofiev (pronounced Pro-cough-ee-ef) was born in Russia in 1882. His father was a farm manager and his mother played the piano. Prokofiev started taking piano lessons with his mother at the age of three. He started to show unusual talent by the time he was five when he composed his first piece. His mother wrote it down for him and it was called Indian Gallop. By the time he was seven Prokofiev learned to play chess. He was an excellent chess player and his love of chess stayed with him throughout his life. He even played against, and beat, a chess world champion in 1914.By the time he was nine he had written his first opera, The Giant. By the time he was 13 he was studying at a school for music and had written lots of pieces. He studied with a lot of famous musicians including Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov who also taught Igor Stravinsky.
Prokofiev was a child prodigy. That means a child who is extremely talented and is able to do things many adults can't do.
Prokofiev wrote lots of music, even before he graduated from music school, but most of his early compositions sounded very harsh and dissonant. Even though he was becoming quite famous, many people hated his music. In fact, the orchestra and singers refused to perform one of his operas, The Gambler, because they didn't understand it. Prokofiev's first famous piece was his First Symphony which is known as the Classical Symphony. He made the music sound like that of composers from the Classical Period like Mozart (who is probably the most famous child prodigy of all time.)
Life in The US and Europe
In 1917 there was a revolution in Russia and the Tzar (Russian King) was killed and the type of government changed. During this period, things were very difficult in Russia so Prokofiev left the country and lived in the United States. He travelled to Paris a lot and lived there part time. It was during his years in Europe that he met his wife, Lina, with whom he had two sons.
Prokofiev became famous during his years in Europe and the United States. He wrote his famous opera, For the Love of Three Oranges and music for several movies including Lieutenant Kije during this time.
Return to Russia
In 1936 Prokofiev returned to Russia, where he spent the last 18 years of his life. During that time he wrote his most famous works, Peter and the Wolf and Romeo and Juliet. He also wrote several other pieces for children and music for a few movies.
Prokofiev died on the same day as the Russian leader, Joseph Stalin. Because the country was in mourning for Stalin it took several days for Prokofiev to be buried.