10 Things you probably didn’t know about Sergei Prokofiev


1. Prokofiev and Humphrey Bogart were born and died in the same century, in the same decade. Prokofiev, 23 April 1891 – 5 March 1953. Bogart, 25 December 1899 – January 14, 1957. Yes, Humphrey was a Christmas baby. But why do I include this little-known fact? Because Bogie was the Prokofiev of the movie industry. Prokofiev’s music is well-known for its diversity, as too was Bogart who played a multitude of odd, dangerous and charming characters. The two had something else in common, they were obsessive chess players.

2. In 1973, the Sydney Opera House opened. Prokofiev's opera, War and Peace, was the very first performance in our great white cathedral to the arts. And, a friend of mine was in that performance, as a stage extra. His nickname is Fifi, no kidding.

3. Apart from writing the score for three movies, his music has been used in 164 movies and TV shows since 1931, and his music is a favourite on the Ren & Stimpy show, used in 11 episodes.

4. Prokofiev's second son, Oleg Sergeevich, 4 December 1928 – 20 August 1998, was an artist, poet and sculptor. Below are some images of Oleg's artworks, with much thanks and credit going to photographer Graham High, acting for The Prokofiev Estate.
INTERLOCKING PIECE 3 1992, BRONZE 50 x 50 x 60 cm INTERLOCKING PIECE  3 1992, BRONZE 50 x 50 x 60 cm
ASPIRING ORANGE op701 1993 82 x 39 x 38 cm ASPIRING ORANGE op701 1993 82 x 39 x 38 cm

5. There were no flowers at Prokofiev’s funeral. Every floret, bud, blossom, and bloom had been taken or bought up in Moscow, for the funeral of his adversary Uncle Jo, Joseph Stalin, who died just one hour after Prokofiev.

6. Heavily involved in the early 20th-century movement of Futurism, Prokofiev was the first to publicly perform in Russia, the music of the inventor of the twelve-tone system,  the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg.

7. Mozart and Prokofiev composed their first pieces at the age of five.

8. Joseph Stalin never smashed a recording of Prokofiev’s own music over his head as suggested in the excellent play Master Class, by British playwright David Pownall; but I just bet he wanted to.

9. There are more than 8 million links to Prokofiev on Google, and he has his own YouTube channel. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5BD80ABF8A438689

10. Prokofiev too was a constant list maker. In his Theory of Creative Actions in Twenty Propositions, his number six sums him up the best I believe. “As I am the expression of mind, I am capable of vigorous creative thinking”.

Sergei Prokofiev in New York, 1918. This picture is from Wikimedia Commons