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Prokofiev, a composer for all ages

3 October 2018

Whether a classical music buff or not, we are all familiar with the works of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.

Born in the village of Sontsovka, Prokofiev was a bold innovator who eschewed the beaten path in art. His compositions, many of which are today recognised masterpieces of musical arts, usually evoked either genuine bewilderment or sharp criticism when first performed.

Sixty years since his death and his works are still current and used regularly.


The Apprentice

Dum-da-dum-da-dum-da…. yes, you’ve guessed it, the pulsating theme tune to the popular BBC business-styled reality game show, The Apprentice, was composed by Prokofiev. The theme, ‘Dance of the Knights’ from the ballet Romeo and Juliet has become an iconic work, since its premiere in 1935. The ballet tells the tragic story of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers and the war waged between rival families. So it's no surprise that this centrepiece of the ballet is one of the most dramatic pieces of music ever written. Nor that the producers of The Apprentice wanted some of that drama for their theme music. With its strong horns, stirring bass and strings, this composition is one of the most popular works by the 20th century Russian composer. 


Sting

‘Believe me when I say to you, I hope the Russians love their children too.’ Recognise these lyrics? The former Police front man, Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, also known as Sting used the ‘Romance’ movement from Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé as the main theme in his 1985 anti-war song ‘Russians’, which featured on his debut solo album. The song is a commentary that criticises the then-dominant Cold War foreign policy and doctrine of mutual assured destruction by the United States and the Soviet Union.  Lieutenant Kijé was originally written to accompany the film of the same name. Considered today as one of Prokofiev’s best-known works, this was his first attempt at film music and his first commission. After the film’s successful release, the five-movement Kijé suite quickly became part of the international concert repertoire. 


Peter and the Wolf

We have all gone on an adventure with Peter into the woods, either as a child or as a parent. Since its premiere at the Central Children’s Theatre in Moscow in 1936, Prokofiev’s charming Peter and the Wolf has introduced millions of children to the different instruments of the orchestra.

Having been recorded more than 400 times in 112 different languages, the symphonic fairy-tale is considered today as one of the most popular pieces of classical music in the world.

Well-known narrators to date include David Bowie and Dame Edna.


Wondering how this is relevant? This season, Welsh National Opera are staging an epic new production of Prokofiev’s War and Peace, directed by David Pountney and conducted by Tomáš Hanus. After receiving five star reviews in our home city of Cardiff, the production will tour to Oxford, Llandudno, Birmingham and Southampton.