Last modified on 14 April 2014, at 20:44

Sergei Prokofiev

The composer, just as the poet, the sculptor or the painter, is in duty bound to serve Man, the people. He must beautify human life and defend it.

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (1891-04-27 N.S. or 1891-04-15 O.S. – 1953-03-05) was a composer and pianist born in the Russian Empire. After a period as an emigré he returned to become one of the Soviet Union's most high-profile cultural figures.


  • Formalism is music that people don’t understand at first hearing.
    • Quoted in Boris Schwarz Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia, 1917-1970 (1972) p. 115.

Sergei Prokofiev: Autobiography, Articles, Reminiscences (1960)Edit

Edited by S. Shlifstein and translated by Rose Prokofieva.

  • My chief virtue (or if you like, defect) has been a tireless lifelong search for an original, individual musical idiom. I detest imitation, I detest hackneyed devices.
    • Page 7.
  • I strenuously object to the very word "grotesque" which has become hackneyed to the point of nausea…I would prefer my music to be described as "Scherzo-ish" in quality, or else by three words describing the various degrees of the Scherzo – whimsicality, laughter, mockery.
    • Page 37; from his fragmentary Autobiography.
  • It seemed to me that had Haydn lived to our day he would have retained his own style while accepting something of the new at the same time. That was the kind of symphony I wanted to write: a symphony in the classical style. And when I saw that my idea was beginning to work, I called it the Classical Symphony.
    • Page 46; from the Autobiography.
  • The time is past when music was written for a handful of aesthetes. Today vast crowds of people have come face to face with serious music and are waiting with eager impatience. Composers, take heed of this…But this does not mean that you must pander to this audience. Pandering always has an element of insincerity about it and nothing good ever came of that.
    • Page 106; from a notebook entry (1937).
  • In my view, the composer, just as the poet, the sculptor or the painter, is in duty bound to serve Man, the people. He must beautify human life and defend it. He must be a citizen first and foremost, so that his art might consciously extol human life and lead man to a radiant future. Such is the immutable code of art as I see it.
    • Page 136; from his "Music and Life" (1951).

Quotes about ProkofievEdit

  • Mr. Prokofiev's pieces have been contributions not to the art of music, but to national pathology and pharmacopoeia. We do not refer particularly to the pianoforte solos composed and played by Mr. Prokofiev, for they, we are sure, invite their own damnation, because there is nothing in them to hold attention.They pursue no aesthetic purpose, strive for no recognizable ideal, proclaim no means for increasing the expressive potency of music. They are simply perverse. They die the death of abortions.
    • Anonymous reviewer, as quoted in Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time (1965) by Nicolas Slonimsky, p.132

External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about: