Born in 1891 and several years younger than most of his class, Prokofiev was viewed as eccentric and arrogant, and annoyed a number of his classmates by keeping statistics on their errors.
As a member of the Saint Petersburg music scene, Prokofiev developed early a reputation as musical rebel. In 1909 he graduated in composition with unimpressive marks.
Although he finished his career at the Conservatory in 1914, during World War I, he returned to the Conservatory and studied organ to avoid conscription.
Prokofiev married Li in 1923 and around 1924, Prokofiev was introduced to Christian Science. He began to practice its teachings, which he believed to be beneficial to his health and to his fiery temperament.
By the time of the German invasion of Russia on 22 June 1941, his relationship with the 25-year-old writer and librettist Mira Mendelssohn had finally led to his separation from his wife Lina, although they never divorced.
Indeed, Prokofiev had tried to persuade Lina and their sons to accompany him as evacuees out of Moscow, but Lina opted to stay.
On 20 February 1948, Prokofiev‘s estranged wife Lina was arrested for ‘espionage’, as she had tried to send money to her mother in Spain.
After nine months of interrogation, she was sentenced by a Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR to 20 years of hard labour.
She spent eight years in the Soviet Gulag and was released after Stalin’s death in 1953 and in 1974 left the Soviet Union.
Prokofiev died at the age of 61 on 5 March 1953, the same day as Joseph Stalin.
The leading Soviet musical periodical reported Prokofiev‘s death as a brief item on page 116. (The first 115 pages were devoted to the death of Stalin).
Lina outlived her estranged husband by many years, dying in London on 3 January 1989 at age 91.
‘Peter and the Wolf’ is a musical composition (symphonic fairy tale for children) written by Prokofiev in 1936. The narrator tells a children’s story, while the orchestra illustrates it.
It is Prokofiev‘s most frequently performed work, and one of the most frequently performed works in the entire classical repertoire. It has been recorded many times.
Peter, a young pioneer, lives at his grandfather’s home in a forest clearing. One day, Peter goes out into the clearing, leaving the garden gate open, and the duck that lives in the yard takes the opportunity to go swimming in a pond nearby.
The duck starts arguing with a little bird. Peter’s pet cat stalks them quietly, and the bird – warned by Peter – flies to safety in a tall tree while the duck swims to safety in the middle of the pond.
What kind of bird are you if you can’t fly?
What kind of bird are you if you can’t swim?
Peter’s grandfather scolds him for being outside in the meadow alone and, when he defies him, saying: ‘Boys like me are not afraid of wolves’, his grandfather takes him back into the house and locks the gate.
Soon a big, grey wolf does indeed come out of the forest. The cat quickly climbs into a tree, but the duck, who has jumped out of the pond, is chased, overtaken, and swallowed by the wolf.
Peter fetches a rope and climbs over the garden wall into the tree. He asks the bird to fly around the wolf’s head to distract him, while he lowers a noose and catches the wolf by his tail. The wolf struggles to get free, but Peter ties the rope to the tree and the noose only gets tighter.
Some hunters, who have been tracking the wolf, come out of the forest ready to shoot, but Peter gets them to help him take the wolf to a zoo in a victory parade that includes himself, the bird, the hunters leading the wolf, the cat, and grumpy grumbling grandfather.