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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
March 5
Can You Guess? Sergei Prokofiev wrote a great piece of music that tells the story of a boy, his grandfather, some hunters and many animals.  Can You Guess what this famous story is?

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1853 - Founding of piano company by H. E. Steinway and sons.

1887 - Heitor Villa-Lobos, Brazilian composer, was born.

1905 - Premiere of Frederick S. Converse's The Mystic Trumpeter. Philadelphia Orchestra

1942 - Premiere of John Cage's The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs

1950 - (possibly Mar 4) Eugene Fodor, US violinist, was born. See his work at Amazon.

1958 - Andy (Andrew Roy) Gibb, of the Bee Gees, was born.

1965 - Premiere of Walter Piston's Symphony No. 6, by the Boston Symphony.

1966 - Nowhere Man, by the Beatles, was released.

2004 - Premiere of Gerard Schurmann´s Trio by Richard Hawkins, clarinet; Peter Rejto, cello; Christiana Dahl, piano. Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival
Sergei Prokofiev
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).  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 diedon this date,  March 5 1953 (the same day as Stalin).
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Sergei Prokofiev
Did You Guess?
It is, of course, Peter and the WolfThe bird is played by the flute, the duck by the oboe, the clarinet, the grandfather by the bassoon, the hunters by the kettle drums, the wolf by the french horns and Peter is played by the strings.
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