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Serge Prokofieff Timeline

A year by year alignment of Prokofieff's life and works
Biographical information by David Nice

The chronological list of works indicates the publisher of each work and provides links for further information on those published by Boosey & Hawkes

Born 11th April (23rd April New Calendar style) as Sontsovka in the Ukraine, a large country where his father worked as a managing agronomist.


Encouraged by his mother’s playing, writes his first piano piece, Indian Galop.


Sees Gounod’s Faust on his first visit to Moscow, and is inspired to compose his first opera, The Giant, performed before a select family audience.


The Giant Opera in three acts

Introduced through family connections, to Taneyev in Moscow, who recommends theory studies with Pomerantsev and two summers’ tuition at Sontsovka with Glière.


Desert Islands Opera (unfinished) (1900-02)


Symphony in G


Violin Sonata in C


Begins work on the Six Early Piano Sonatas (1903-09)

Meets Glazunov in St. Petersburg and is enrolled at the Conservatoire. Brings with him to his entrance examination four operas, two sonatas, a symphony and piano pieces.


The 1905 revolution disrupts classes at the Conservatoire and Prokofieff, although not an active sympathiser, signs one of the students’ petitions protesting at the dismissal of the leading composer-directors.


Undina Opera in four acts (1904-07) composed around this time

Friendship with Miaskovsky, an already-distinguished student ten years Prokofieff’s senior, compensates for dissatisfaction with Rimsky-Korsakov’s over-crowded orchestration classes and study of counterpoint with the uninspiring Liadov.


Plays some of his first distinctive piano pieces, two from op.2 and the now-celebrated Suggestion diabolique from op.4, to the leading lights of St. Petersburg’s Contemporary Music Evenings and gives his first public performance in the series on 18 December.

Four Pieces 

for piano (1907-08) BH
Starts composing his series of solo piano works around this time:

Four Pieces 

for piano Op. 3 (1907-11) BH

Four Pieces 

for piano Op. 4 (1908-12) BH


Ten Pieces for piano Op.12 (1906-13) For


Symphony No.2

His new compositions at the Spring examinations shock Liadov because of their Scriabinesque tendencies. Begins graduate studies as a ‘Free Artist’ of the Conservatoire including conducting under Nikolai Tcherepnin, who encourages a taste for Haydn and Mozart.


A Feast in Time of Plague Opera in one act (1908-09)


Moscow debut with premiere of Piano Sonata No.1. His father dies in July, which may account for the elegiac mood of the symphonic poem Autumn.


for orchestra BH

Two Choral Songs 

for women’s voices and orchestra (1909-10) BH


Symphonic poem for orchestra BH


Piano Sonata No.1 published by Jurgenson – Prokofieff’s first work in print. Begins what he later regards as ‘my first more or less mature composition’, the whimsical Piano Concerto No.1, and a one-act opera based on a play with Wildean overtones, Maddalena; he is to orchestrate only the first of the four scenes.

Two Poems 

for voice and piano (1910-11) BH


Piano Concerto No.1 (1911-12) For


Opera in one act (1911, rev. 1913) BH

Compositions include the utterly characteristic, motoric Toccata and the Piano Sonata No.2. Premieres Piano Concerto No.1 in Moscow, to a lively mixture of reactions.


Toccata in D minor for piano For


Piano Sonata No.2 in D minor For


Scherzo for four bassoons For


for cello and piano BH


First performance of Piano Concerto No.2, with its more consciously brilliant role for the soloist, at an open-air concert in Pavlovsk; it provokes an uproar among the largely conservative members of the audience.

Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor 

in G minor (1913, rev. 1923) BH

Graduates from the Conservatoire; the absence through illness of his authoritarian piano teacher, Anna Essipova, prompts him to perform his Piano Concerto No.1 in the final competition for the Rubinstein Prize – which he wins despite Glazunov’s opposition. Travels to London, where he sees the latest successes of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and meets the impresario. Diaghilev commissions a ballet on a savage, prehistoric theme. Arriving back in Russia just before the outbreak of war, works on the ballet (Ala et Lolly) alongside the voice-and-piano fairy tale The Ugly Duckling and completion of the piano Sarcasms.


(first version) (1909/14) BH

Scythian Suite (Ala et Lolly) 

for orchestra (1914-15) BH

The Ugly Duckling 

for voice and piano BH


Completes Sarcasms for piano (1912, rev.14) For


Travels to Italy to see Diaghilev, who rejects Ala et Lolly and commissions instead a ‘truly Russian’ folk tale (Chout or The Buffoon). Meets Stravinsky for the second time and joins him in a four-hand piano performance of Petrushka. Reworks material from Ala et Lolly as the Scythian Suite and begins The Gambler.

Cinq Poesies 

for voice and piano BH


Ballet in six scenes (1915/20) BH

Conducts the Scythian Suite in Petrograd (the re-named St. Petersburg); Glazunov walks out just before the end. Encouraged by the Mariinsky Theatre’s new conductor Albert Coates and its most innovative and influential director, Vsevolod Meyerhold, spends most of the year composing The Gambler. A more lyrical style surfaces in some of the Visions fugitives, completed the following year, and the op.27 songs to poems by Anna Akhmatova.

The Gambler 

Opera in four acts and six scenes (1915/28) BH

Visions fugitives 

for piano (1915-17) BH

Cinq Poesies d'Anna Akhmatova 

for voice and piano BH




Witnesses the February Revolution in Petrograd, but spends much of the rest of the year away from the cities. Plans for production of The Gambler abandoned. A summer in the country yields two relatively untroubled works, the Classical Symphony and Violin Concerto No.1. Composes, by way of contrast, the wild, ‘Scythian’ cantata Seven, they are Seven. Completes Piano Sonatas Nos.3 and 4, based on sketches from the Conservatoire years.

Piano Sonata No.3 in A minor 

in A minor (1908/17) BH

Violin Concerto No.1 in D major 

in D (1916-17) BH

Classical Symphony in D (Symphony No.1) 

in D (Symphony No.1) BH

Seven, they are Seven 

for tenor, chorus and orchestra (1917, rev. 1933) BH

Gives two piano recitals and the premiere of the Classical Symphony in Petrograd before setting out for America in May, travelling via Japan and arriving in New York in September. Some success in recital there but concerts in December are abusively received by the critics. Meets Carolina Codina (Lina Lubera), his future wife.

Four Pieces 

for piano BH

Schubert Waltzes 

arr. for piano BH


Greater success in Chicago. Cleofonte Campanini, music director of the Chicago Opera, expresses delight at the prospect of an opera based on a fable by his compatriot Gozzi, The Love for Three Oranges; a contract is signed in January, and despite the onslaught of scarlet fever and diphtheria in March, Prokofieff has the score ready by October. Campanini’s death in December throws plans for the premiere into disarray. Meanwhile Prokofieff begins a more ‘wild and passionate’ opera, The Fiery Angel; it will take him seven years to complete.

Overture on Hebrew Themes 

for sextet BH

Overture on Hebrew Themes 

arr. for chamber orchestra BH

The Love for Three Oranges 

Opera in four acts and a prologue BH

The Love for Three Oranges 

(1919. Rev. 1924) BH

The Fiery Angel 

Opera in five acts and seven scenes (1919-23, rev. 1926-7) BH

Visits Paris to discuss revisions of Chout with Diaghilev. Returns in October to America, where Chicago’s wrangles over The Love for Three Oranges force another year’s postponement.

Cinq Melodies (sans paroles) 

for voice and piano BH

Diaghilev’s planned presentation of Prokofieff to Parisian audiences through Chout is pre-empted by Koussevitzky’s concert performance of the Scythian Suite; both are successful, though Chout’s London premiere is coldly received. Completes work on Piano Concerto No.3 in Brittany, dedicating it to the Russian poet Konstantin Balmont, who is staying nearby and five of whose poems he sets to music around the same time. The Love for Three Oranges successfully premiered at the end of the year in Chicago under Mary Garden’s administration.

Piano Concerto No.3 in C 

(1917-21) BH

Piano Concerto No.3 in C 

(1917-21) BH


After four years resident in America returns to Europe, settling in Ettal in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, his base for the next year and a half.

The Love for Three Oranges 

transcribed for piano. BH



Concert engagements in five European countries. Marries Lina and moves to Paris, where the first performances of Violin Concerto No.1 and Piano Sonata No.5 are indifferently received.

Piano Sonata No.5 in C 

in C (first version) BH

Greater success in Paris with the more consciously modernistic Seven, they are Seven and revised version of Piano Concerto No.2. Faced with the charge of ‘living off old compositions’, begins to write a large symphony ‘of iron and steel’ and earns money in the meantime through a commission to write a short circus ballet, Trapeze. First son, Sviatoslav, born in February, but Prokofieff’s mother dies in December.

Quintet in G minor 




Symphony No.2 in D minor 

in D minor (1924-25)


for Mixed ensemble BH

Koussevitzky conducts the premiere of the ‘difficult’ Symphony No.2, but Paris no longer finds Prokofieff a sensation. Diaghilev, nonetheless, is intrigued enough to commission another new ballet presenting the new Soviet spirit of construction in a way that will suit modish Parisian tastes, Le Pas d’acier. Returns to the United States for a concert tour beginning in December.

Cinq Melodies (sans paroles) 

arr. for violin and piano BH



Le Pas d'acier 

Ballet in two scenes (1925-26) BH


The Love for Three Oranges successfully performed in Leningrad. Works on the complex orchestration of The Fiery Angel, with the prospect of a Berlin premiere to be conducted by Bruno Walter.

Overture (American) 

for chamber orchestra BH

First trip to the Soviet Union, giving recitals and appearances as soloist in Moscow, Leningrad and the Ukraine. At its June premiere, Le Pas d’acier revives his flagging reputation in Paris. Berlin production of The Fiery Angel cancelled; Leningrad shows interest in The Gambler, which he revises.

The Fiery Angel 

completed. Opera in five acts and seven scenes (1919-23, rev. 1926-7) BH

Portions of The Fiery Angel’s second act conducted by Koussevitzky in Paris; Prokofieff reworks the thematic developments of the opera into Symphony No.3. Diaghilev commissions another ballet, The Prodigal Son, and is amazed when Prokofieff completes it in a few months. Second son, Oleg, born in December.

Overture (American) 

version for full orchestra BH

Chose en soi 

for piano BH

The Prodigal Son 

Ballet in three scenes (1928-29) BH


Brussels, not Leningrad, hosts the first performance of The Gambler. The Prodigal Son opens in Paris after clashes with Balanchine, the choreographer; Diaghilev dies shortly afterwards in Venice. Revisits Moscow, this time without concert engagements; shape of things to come in the Proletarian Musicians’ Union’s rejection of the ‘historically inaccurate’ Pas d’acier.


for orchestra completed (1925/29) BH


(final version of op.5) BH



Extended USA concert tour. Works on two American commissions: String Quartet No.1 for the Washington Library of Congress and Symphony No.4, a reworking of themes from The Prodigal Son, for the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra where Koussevitzky is now principal conductor. Composes a new ballet for the Paris Grand Opéra, On the Dnieper (Sur le Borysthène).


from op.50, arr. for string orchestra BH

On the Dnieper 

Ballet in two scenes BH


Composes Piano Concerto No.4 for Paul Wittgenstein, who has lost his right hand in the war, but the pianist rejects it outright. Concert appearances in most of the major European cities.

The Gambler 

Symphonic Suite from The Gambler (1930-31) BH

Six morceaux 

for piano (1930-31) BH


Deux chansons Russes for voice and piano BH



Plays his new Piano Concerto No.5 with Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic, repeating his solo role in Moscow (November) and Leningrad (December), where Le pas d’acier is accepted in concert-suite form. Receives Belgoskino Commission to write his first film music, for Faintsimmer’s Lieutenant Kijé. First performance of Sonata for Two Violins takes place in Paris, half an hour before the premiere of On the Dnieper.

Two Sonatinas 

for piano (1931-32) BH


Though he tours America in January, Prokofieff spends most of the year in the Soviet Union, to hear the recording of his Kijé score and to work on a Shaw-Shakespeare compendium for the Moscow Kamerny Theatre, Egyptian Nights.

Chant symphonique 

for orchestra BH

Cello Concerto in E minor 

(1933-38) BH

Lieutenant Kije 

Music for the film BH


Writes Izvestia article on a ‘new simplicity’ in melody and form which matches his aims in the West over the past few years. Spends five months in USSR, discussing Kirov plans for Romeo and Juliet towards the end of the year.

Trois Pieces 

for piano (1933-34) BH


for piano (1933-34) BH


from op.29 transcribed for orchestra BH

Lieutenant Kije 

from the film BH

Lieutenant Kije 

for voice and piano BH

Egyptian Nights 

Incidental Music BH

Egyptian Nights 

Symphonic Suite BH

Piano score of Romeo and Juliet completed in September, alongside his last non-Soviet commission, Violin Concerto No.2, premiered by the French violinist Robert Soetens in Madrid.

Musiques d'enfants 

Twelve Easy Pieces for piano BH

Six Mass Songs 

for voice and piano BH*


Moves his family to Moscow, but continues to tour in the west. Pravda attack on Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk initiates tighter state control over new music. Many cancellations of theatrical works and films with non-Soviet literary subject matter, including Romeo and Juliet and three Pushkin centenary projects for which Prokofieff has written extensive incidental music – Romm’s film of The Queen of Spades, Tairov’s stage adaptation of Eugene Onegin and Meyerhold’s radical production of Boris Godunov. Only Peter and the Wolf, written spontaneously for Natalia Satz’s Moscow Children’s Musical Theatre, reaches performance.

Romeo and Juliet 

Ballet in four acts and epilogue BH*

Romeo and Juliet: Suite No. 1 

for orchestra BH*

Romeo and Juliet: Suite No. 2 

for orchestra BH*

Peter and The Wolf 

A Musical Tale for Children BH

The Queen of Spades 

Film music (unfinished) BH*

Boris Godunov: Incidental music 

Incidental music for SATB soli, chorus and orchestra BH*

Eugene Onegin: Incidental music 

Incidental Music for narrator, actors and orchestra BH*

Russian Overture 

for orchestra BH

Three Children's Songs 

for voice and piano (1936/39) BH*


Conducts Suite No.2 from Romeo and Juliet in Leningrad. The score of the riotous and inventive Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Prokofieff’s second ‘national’ work after the Russian Overture of the previous year, provokes ‘more indignation than rapture’ among the bureaucrats and remains unperformed until 1966.

Four Marches 

for brass band (1935/37) BH*

Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution 

for chorus, military band, accordions and orchestra (1936-37) BH*

Songs of Our Days 

Cantata for mezzo and baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra BH*

Final tour in the west; meets Walt Disney in Hollywood and is offered $2500 a week to write music for a film studio. Starts cinema work, but back in Russia collaborates with Sergei Eisenstein on the patriotic Alexander Nevsky. The premiere screening in December is a great success – not least with Stalin – though another first performance, of the austere Cello Concerto No.1, fails and Romeo and Juliet receives an unremarked premiere in the Czech city of Brno.

Hamlet: Incidental music 

Incidental music for soprano and baritone soloists, and orchestra (1937-38) BH*


Music from Divertimento arr. for piano BH


Piano transcription of music from Hamlet BH

Alexander Nevsky: Cantata 

Music for the film BH*

Music from Alexander Nevsky fashioned into a concert cantata alongside work on a new, ‘Soviet’ opera Semyon Kotko; Meyerhold, who is to direct the first production, is arrested for his outspokenness in July and executed in prison the following year; the oddly wistful melody that launches the short cantata Zdravitsa (A Musical Toast or Hail to Stalin) perhaps represents Prokofieff’s sense of loss. Meets Mira Mendelson, who is to become his second wife, in the Caucasian town of Kislovodsk.

Alexander Nevsky: Cantata 

Cantata for mezzo-soprano solo, chorus and orchestra (1928-39) BH*

Semyon Kotko 

Opera in five acts BH*

Zdravitsa (Toast to Stalin) 

(Toast to Stalin) Cantata for chorus and orchestra BH*

Seven Songs 

for voice and piano BH*

The Kirov finally stages Romeo and Juliet. Semyon Kotko goes ahead at the Stanislavsky Opera Theatre; Serafima Birman (later to play the scheming Euphrosynia in Ivan the Terrible) takes Meyerhold’s place as director, but the opera is not seen as a suitable ‘example to the masses’. Escapes into the world of the Sheridan-based opera The Duenna (Betrothal in a Monastery).


The Kirov finally stages Romeo and Juliet. Semyon Kotko goes ahead at the Stanislavsky Opera Theatre; Serafima Birman (later to play the scheming Euphrosynia in Ivan the Terrible) takes Meyerhold’s place as director, but the opera is not seen as a suitable ‘example to the masses’. Escapes into the world of the Sheridan-based opera The Duenna (Betrothal in a Monastery).

The Duenna (Betrothal in a Monastery) 

Opera in four acts (1940-41) BH*


Sviatoslav Richter gives the first performance of Piano Sonata No.6 in Moscow. Prokofieff finally leaves Lina for Mira. The German invasion of Russia in June turns his thoughts from a new ballet, Cinderella, to an opera based on Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Evacuated with Mira to Nalchik, where he composes String Quartet No.2, on local Kabardanian Themes.



A Summer Day 

Children’s Suite for small orchestra BH

Symphonic March in Bb 

for orchestra BH*


Ballet in three acts (1940-44) BH*

War and Peace 

Lyric-dramatic scenes (1941/52) BH*

Works on War and Peace and the whirlwind Piano Sonata No.7 in Tbilisi. Travels to Alma-Ata in Central Asia to collaborate with Eisenstein on Ivan the Terrible, and completes scores for several minor patriotic films.

Seven Mass Songs 

for chorus and piano (1941-42) BH*

March in Ab 

for chorus and piano BH*

Three Pieces 

(1941-42) BH*

Lermontov: Film music 

Film music (unfinished) BH*

Kotovsky: Film music 

Film music BH*


Film music BH*


Khan Buzay Opera (unfinished)

Cinderella: Three Pieces 

for piano BH*

Ivan the Terrible 

Film music (1942-46) BH*


Six weeks in Moscow followed by four months back in Alma-Ata. Receives his first Stalin Prize for Piano Sonata No.7, triumphantly premiered by Richter in January. Piano score of Cinderella and Flute Sonata completed in Perm. Back in Moscow by October.

Ballad of an Unknown Boy 

Cantata for soprano and tenor soloists, chorus and orchestra (1942-43) BH*

Cinderella: Ten Pieces 

for piano BH*

Concentrates on two major projects completed during summer in the country, at Ivanovo: Piano Sonata No.8, premiered at the end of the year by Emil Gilels, and Symphony No.5. First public hearing of the original eleven-scene version of War and Peace in October is moderately successful, though stagings are postponed and the event is soon eclipsed by the screening of Ivan the Terrible Part One, for which Prokofieff and Eisenstein both receive class one Stalin Prizes.

Violin Sonata No.2 in D major 

transcription of Flute Sonata (1943-44) BH*

Cinderella: Adagio 

for cello and piano (1943-44) BH*

March in Bb 

for military band (1943-44) BH*

Cinderella: Six Pieces 

for piano BH*

Twelve Russian Folk Songs 

for voice and piano BH*

Moscow premiere of Symphony No.5, Prokofieff’s last appearance as conductor, coincides with the impending defeat of the Germans. Several days later, suffers concussion of the brain after a fall and never recovers his health. Able to work on music for Ivan the Terrible Part Two and revisions to War and Peace in the autumn, and celebrates victory with the bizarrely-scored Ode to the End of the War. Cinderella’s Bolshoi premiere takes place in November.

Ode to the End of the War 

for orchestra BH*

Two Duets 

for tenor, bass and piano BH*

Triumphant Leningrad stagings of the revised first part of War and Peace at the Maly Theatre, conducted by its champion Samosud, and of The Duenna at the Kirov Theatre. Prokofieff and Mira purchase a dacha in Nikolina Gora, where he spends most of his time. Composes the spare, tragic Violin Sonata No.1 and works on his bleak orchestral masterpiece, Symphony No.6. Ivan the Terrible Part Two criticised for ‘historical inaccuracies’ and banned.

Violin Sonata No.1 in F minor 

for violin and piano completed (1938/46) BH*

Ivan the Terrible (film) 

Oratorio for male speaker, contralto and baritone soli, children's and mixed chorus and orchestra (1942-46) BH*

Romeo and Juliet: Suite No. 3 

for orchestra BH*

Cinderella: Suite No.1 

for orchestra BH*

Cinderella: Suite No.2 

for orchestra BH*

Cinderella: Suite No.3 

for orchestra BH*

Waltz Suite 

for orchestra BH*

The second (‘war’) half of War and Peace reaches dress rehearsal in Leningrad, only to be withdrawn following official criticism and Prokofieff’s refusal to cut offending scenes. Composes two introspective works at Nikolina Gora, the disarmingly simple Piano Sonata No.9 and the Sonata for Solo Violin. Radically expands Symphony No.4 along the lines of its successor. Mravinsky conducts Symphony No.6 which is hailed at its October premiere, but publicly denounced and withdrawn shortly afterwards.

Symphony No.6 in E flat minor 

completed (1945/47) BH*

Festive Poem 'Thirty Years' 

for orchestra BH*

Prosper, Our Mighty Land 

Cantata for chorus and orchestra BH*

Sonata for Violin solo in D major 

for unison violins or solo violin BH*

Prokofieff’s official marriage to Mira leaves Lina, as a resident alien, unprotected; she is arrested on trumped-up charges and deported to a Siberian labour camp. Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin’s right-hand man, denounces ‘formalism in music’ at a February conference. Prokofieff is powerless; his works are unperformed over the following months and even his ideologically correct new opera, The Story of a Real Man, is ferociously denounced at the end of the year.

The Story of a Real Man 

Opera in four acts (1947-48) BH*


Distant Seas (unfinished)

The Tale of the Stone Flower 

Ballet in four acts BH*

A new full-length ballet score, The Tale of the Stone Flower, is deemed unacceptable and a Bolshoi production postponed. Prokofieff finds some consolation in his musical friendship with the young Mstislav Rostropovich, for whom he composes a cello sonata.

Two Pushkin Waltzes 

for orchestra BH*

Attends his last premiere, the first public performance of the Cello Sonata in March, Prokofieff works slowly on the oratorio On Guard for Peace and the suite for children Winter Bonfire. Concert-hall rehabilitation for his works begins.

Winter Bonfire 

Suite for narrator, boys' chorus and orchestra (1949-50) BH*

Soldier's Marching Song 

for voice and piano BH*

On Guard for Peace 

Oratorio for narrator, contralto, boy alto, boys’ chorus, chorus and orchestra BH*

Richter gives the first performance of Piano Sonata No.9 shortly before Prokofieff’s sixtieth birthday, relayed by telephone to the composer from the Union of Composers. Rostropovich collaborates with him on the transformation of Cello Concerto No.1 into what will eventually become the very different Sinfonia-Concertante.


Mistress of the Copper Mountain from The Stone Flower Suite for orchestra (unrealised)


Completion of the Sinfonia-Concertante and the enigmatic, only superficially simple Symphony No.7, conducted by Samosud in October; Prokofieff makes his last concert-hall appearance. Makes sketches for the Cello Concertino, revises Piano Sonata No.5 and plans a revision of Symphony No.2.

Cello Sonata in C sharp minor 

(unfinished) BH*



Writes his childhood autobiography and hears news of Bolshoi rehearsals for The Stone Flower. Plans a series of new works and composes up until his death on 5 March, only hours before that of Stalin.


Symphony No.2 (second version, unfinished)


Piano Sonata No.10 (sketch)


Piano Sonata No.10 (sketch)


Piano Sonata No.11 (sketch)


Piano Sonata No.11 (sketch)

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BH* = Boosey & Hawkes copyright owner and sole publisher of the UK, the British Commonwealth (excluding Canada), Eire and South Africa

For = Robert Forberg

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