Prokofiev: The Collector's Edition

Prokofiev: The Collector's Edition cover
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Prokofiev: The Collector's Edition
Nikolai Lugansky, Martha Argerich, Yefim Bronfman, Michael Beroff, Steven Isserlis, Borodin Quartet, Truks Monk, Andre Previn, Mstislav Rostropovich

[ Erato / Warner Classics / 36 CD Box Set ]

Release Date: Friday 31 March 2023

March 2023 marks the 70th anniversary of death of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). A Russian composer, pianist, and conductor, he made a part of his career in "the west", moving to the United States and France after the 1917 Revolution. He went back to his land, which had become the Soviet Union in the late 30s. As the creator of acknowledged masterpieces across numerous music genres, he is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. His works include such widely heard pieces as the ballet Romeo and Juliet, Peter and the Wolf, his 3rd piano concerto, 2 violin concertos, the "Classical" Symphony, the opera "War and Peace", several symphonies, the film music of Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible, or a great cycle of 9 piano sonatas.

Sergei Prokofiev was born on 27 April 1891 in Sontsovka in the Russian Empire (now in Ukraine). He studied music very young and proved to be exceptionally gifted. At the age of 10 years old, he started learning composition with Reinhold Glière. Prokofiev moved to St Petersburg in 1904 and was admitted to the prestigious Conservatory where he studied piano, harmony, counterpoint, orchestration and conducting, notably under Lyadov, Tcherepnin or Rimsky-Korsakov. Aged only 13 when he entered the Conservatory, he was much younger than most of his classmates.

Later, after having graduated, Prokofiev made his name as an iconoclastic composer-pianist, achieving notoriety with a series of ferociously dissonant and virtuosic works for his instrument, including his first two piano concertos. In 1915, Prokofiev made a decisive break from the standard composer-pianist category with his orchestral Scythian Suite, compiled from music originally composed for a ballet commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballets Russes. Diaghilev commissioned three further ballets from Prokofiev - Chout, Le pas d'acier and The Prodigal Son -which, at the time of their original production, all caused a sensation among both critics and colleagues. (He would compose at the end of the 30s one of his most famous ballet, Romeo and Juliet.) A prolific period when he also composed the Symphony No. 1 "Classical", the Visions fugitives for piano or his first Violin Concerto, one of the most beautiful written in the 20th Century.

After the Revolution of 1917, Prokofiev had to leave Russia, and he moved to the United States, Germany, and then Paris, making his living as a composer, pianist and conductor. He stayed there until the 30s, and composed some of his masterpieces, notably the 3rd Piano Concerto, the Fiery Angel and L'Amour des trois oranges operas, 3 symphonies, his 4th Piano Concerto "for the left hand", etc.

In the early 1930s, the Great Depression diminished opportunities for Prokofiev's ballets and operas to be staged in America and western Europe. Prokofiev, who regarded himself as composer foremost, resented the time taken by touring as a pianist, and increasingly turned to the Soviet Union for commissions of new music; in 1936, he finally returned to his homeland with his family. His greatest Soviet successes included Lieutenant Kijé, Peter and the Wolf, Romeo and Juliet, Alexander Nevsky, the Fifth Symphony, the Piano Sonatas Nos. 6-8 (called the "War Sonatas") and the opera "War and Peace" after Leo Tolstoy's novel.

Prokofiev died on March 5th, 1953, the same day as Joseph Stalin

John Nelson - Berlioz: Roméo et Juliette: Rixe des Capulets et des Montagus: "Quoi! Roméo de retour"