The Early Compositional Education of Sergey Prokofiev: A Survey of Pedagogy, Aesthetics, and Influence

Open Access
Brown, Laura Jean
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Music and Russian
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Charles Dowell Youmans, Thesis Supervisor
  • Mark Edward Ballora, Honors Advisor
  • Adrian Johannes Wanner, Honors Advisor
  • Prokofiev
  • Gliere
  • Taneyev
  • Arensky
  • pedagogy
  • Russian music
As the creative mind behind Peter and the Wolf—perhaps the most time-tested childhood staple from the world of orchestral music—Sergey Prokofiev has touched the musical experiences of children across the world for generations. This composer, however, was not only one of the most accomplished musical personalities of the twentieth century, but also a composer who had enjoyed a remarkable childhood of his own. Sergey Prokofiev was one of the youngest and most accomplished pupils ever admitted to the St. Petersburg Conservatory. This thesis investigates why. Prokofiev was already writing operas on fantastic, fairy-tale subjects at the age of nine. He had an appetite for the spotlight and a determination to be taken seriously, even from a young age. What would happen, then, when such a precocious youth was taken seriously? In the summer of 1902, when Prokofiev was eleven years old, Reinhold Glière—a promising graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, preceded only by his reputation as a gold medalist in composition and the endorsement of his former Moscow mentors—stepped off a train in Sontsovka, Ukraine to become Prokofiev’s first significant professional music teacher. This young professional would spend the next two summers introducing Prokofiev to the rudiments of music and helping him harness his boundless childhood enthusiasm toward a career that would become world-famous. But just who was this Reinhold Glière, and what impact did he have on Prokofiev’s future? This thesis investigates Prokofiev’s childhood experiences in light of his early musical exposure under his mother’s guidance, his studies with Glière, and important archival documents, including part of a symphony written entirely under Glière’s supervision in 1902, which is currently held at the Russian State Archive of Art and Literature in Moscow.