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Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
TODAY IS
April 23
Can You Guess? This time I don't think so.  When  French composer Louis Jullien was born, his father, a violinist, was invited to play a concerto with the local Philharmonic Society orchestra.  He decided to invite one of the musicians to be the child's godfather.
A problem arose.  Each of the orchestra's thirty-six members vied for the privilege. 
Can You Guess Louis Jullien's full baptismal name?

Look at the Bottom of the Page for the Answer.
What Else
Happened
Today?
1756 - Alexander Reinagle, US composer, was born.

1757 - Alessandro Rolla, Italian composer, was born in Pavia.

1812 - Louis Jullien, French composer, was born.

1872 - George Arthur Farwell, US composer, was born in St. Paul, MN.

1881 - Premiere of Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta Patience at the Opéra-Comique in London.

1998 - Premiere of James MacMillan's Why Is This Night Different?. Maggini Quartet at Wigmore Hall in London.
Sergei Prokofiev
1891-1953
Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1
by Violinist Maxim Vengerov
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Prokofiev was born in Sontsovka (now the village of Krasne in Donetsk oblast), Russian Empire (now Ukraine) April 23, 1891.  He was an only child. His mother was a pianist and his father an agricultural engineer.

Prokofiev displayed great musical ability at an early age.  He was a child prodigy and virtuoso pianist who composed his first opera when he was twelve years old.  In 1902, he started taking private lessons in composition. As soon as he had the necessary theoretical tools he  started experimenting, laying the foundation for his own musical style.
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In 1904 he moved to St Petersburg to study at the Academy of Music. Younger than most of his classmates, Sergei was seen as eccentric and arrogant.  His studies bored him.  One of his teachers was Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. He also befriended Boris Asafiev and Nikolai Myaskovsky.

In 1909 Sergei completed his composition class, receiving poor grades. He continued studying, concentrating on conducting and piano performance. Although his piano classes did not go well, composition classes did.  His teacher urged him to experiment. His works began to show more depth and intensity.

In 1914 Prokofiev left the academy, this time with the highest marks, for which he received a grand piano. Soon he traveled to London where he met Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky.

During World War I, Prokofiev returned to the academy to study organ. He composed an opera based on Dostoyevsky's novel The Gambler, but the 1917 revolution caused the premiere to be canceled.   That year he wrote his first symphony, the Classical.

By 1918, Sergei decided to leave Russia due to political unrest. He saw no room for experimental music. He moved to  the US. Arriving in San Francisco, he began a solo career and signed a contract for a production of his new opera The Love for Three Oranges.  Sadly, the conductor took ill and died, cancelling the premiere.  Sergei had stopped his concerts to write the opera, and was in financial difficulty.  In 1920 Prokofiev went to Paris, which was more open to his modern style.  In 1921 The Love for Three Oranges premiered in Chicago, but was not well received.

By 1927 Prokofiev was receiving commissions and things were looking up.  In 1929 his hands were hurt in a car accident, and he had to rely for a while on his composing.  His operas were being well received in Europe, which opened the US market for him.

In the early 1930s Prokofiev wanted to return to Russia.  He moved many of his premieres there from Paris.  He accepted a commission from Leningrad's Kirov Theater for the ballet Romeo and Juliet.  In 1936 the family moved to Russia. The official policy towards music changed; a bureau was formed to keep track of artists and what they did.  Regulations said what kind of music was allowed. The policy caused Russian composers to be isolated from the rest of the world by limiting outside influences. Prokofiev turned to composing music for children (Three Songs for Children, etc.) and the Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, which was never performed. The premiere of the opera Semyon Kotko was postponed, because the producer was imprisoned and executed.

In 1941 Sergei suffered a heart attack. His health declined.  Due to the war, he and other artists were periodically evacuated south. This had consequences for his family life in Moscow.

The outbreak of war inspired a new opera project, War and Peace. He also wrote film music for Sergei Eisenstein (Ivan the Terrible) and his second string quartet.  In 1944, Prokofiev moved to an estate outside of Moscow, to compose his Fifth Symphony which became his most successful. Shortly after the premiere Sergei suffered a concussion from which he never fully recovered.  It severely lowered his activity in later years.

Prokofiev had time to write his Sixth Symphony and a ninth piano sonata (his last) before the Party suddenly changed its opinion about his music. The end of the war allowed the attention to turn inwards again and the Party saw fit to tighten its reins on domestic artists. Prokofiev's music was now suddenly seen as a grave example of "formalism", and generally dangerous to the Soviet people.

On February 20, 1948 his wife Lina was arrested for trying to send money to her mother in Spain. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but was released after Stalin's death.  That same year, Prokofiev remarried.

His last opera projects were cancelled by the Kirov Theatre and this, in combination with his declining health, caused Prokofiev to retire more and more from the scene. Most of his later compositions were not well received. His last performance was in connection with the premiere of the Seventh Symphony in 1952. He died March 5 1953 (the same day as Stalin).
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Sergei Prokofiev
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Did You Guess?
I'll bet you didn't, unless you looked it up!  His father decided to baptize the boy in the name of all of the members of the orchestra.  The orchestra's secretary held the child by the heel and he was baptized George Maurice Adolph Roch Albert Abel Anonio Alexandre Noé Jean Lucien Daniel Eugène Joseph-le-brun Joseph-Barême Thomas Thomas Thomas-Thomas Pierre Arbon Rierre-Maurel Barthélemi Artus Alphonse Bertrand Dieudonné Emanuel Josué Vincent Luc Michel Jules-de-la-plane Jules-Bazin Julio César Jullien. Julien died in an insane asylum March 14, 1860. (My guess is he was driven insane by having to repeat that name over and over.)
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