“Russian composer and pianist Sergei Prokofiev was born in 1891 in Sontsovka, a small village in the Ukraine. Early on it was clear that he had musical talent. His mother, who was a very good pianist, encouraged him and taught him to play the piano. Sergei began composing at the age of five. When he got a bit older, he and his mother moved to St. Petersburg so he could study music.
After Prokofiev graduated from school, he traveled around Europe to learn more about music. World War I and the Russian Revolution made living and working in Russia very difficult, so Prokofiev left the country in 1918. Paris eventually became his home, but he also spent time in the United States and the Bavarian Alps. The whole time he was away from Russia, Prokofiev longed for his homeland. In 1936, he made the unusual decision to move back to the Soviet Union.
Prokofiev was a master at using music to tell a story. Pieces that
do this are called program music. One of his most famous musical stories is Peter and the Wolf, which was written for Russia’s Central Children’s Theatre. You may have seen it performed in school, or on the concert stage. Prokofiev also wrote the ballet music for Romeo and Juliet.
In 1933, Prokofiev was asked to write a film score for the movie Lieutenant Kijé. This movie appealed to the composer’s sense of humor. The story is about an officer who never existed but who, because of a clerical error, appears on a list of soldiers. When the eccentric Tsar Paul I demands to meet the man, the military invent an officer instead of owning up to their mistake. One thing leads to another and a whole life is created for the non-existent Lt. Kijé, all on paper.
“Troika” is a Russian word that means “sleigh.” In this section of the Lt. Kijé Suite, the fictional officer takes a ride through the snowy country…”