He died on the same day as Stalin. Not only did March 5, 1953 see the ending of the life of the Soviet dictator who despised mankind, but also of the life journey of Sergei Prokofiev, which had travelled its winding path for more than 60 years and not always developed in the most predictable manner. Stalin’s funeral was a state ceremony, whereas Prokofiev’s burial merited a brief report only.
Prokofiev was born in 1891 as the son of an estate manager. As a young man and graduate of the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, he became the enfant terrible of the Russian music scene thanks to compositions such as his Scythian Suite, before leaving for the U.S.A. in 1918. After 1923, he lived and composed in Paris for almost a decade, with interruptions for various concert tours to his native Russia. In contrast to Stravinsky, for example, Prokofiev never really adapted to living abroad, and thus he returned to the Soviet Union in 1936, despite the patently obvious political signs. This return was inevitable – and simultaneously disastrous.Although Prokofiev managed to quickly overcome the artistic crisis from which he had suffered during his years in Paris, he was now faced with the inexorable cultural-political doctrine of the Soviet Union. Harassment and surveillance were the order of the day. According to the notorious resolution taken by the Central Committee on February 10, 1948, Prokofiev’s music was also considered “formalist” and “hostile to the spirit of the people”.