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Born: 1891, Sontsovka, Russia Died: 1953, Moscow, Russia

Before the Russian Revolution, Sergei Prokofiev shocked the St. Petersburg musical establishment as an enfant terrible. He quickly joined the European avant-garde in the ’20s and ’30s – his 1923 opera The Fiery Angel was so advanced that it remained unperformed until after his death. The Soviet Union scored a major coup when Prokofiev returned for good in 1936. The composer weathered the persecution of composers in the late ’30s and the trauma of World War II, only to die on the same day as Stalin – March 5, 1953.

Further listening:Piano Concerto No. 2 (1913; rev. 1923)Yuja Wang; Simón Bolívar SymphonyOrchestra, Gustavo Dudamel (DG)

Alexander Nevsky (1939)Christine Cairns; Los Angeles MasterChorale; Los Angeles Philharmonic,André Previn (Telarc)