Great composer’s grandson breathes new life into classical music

British musician Gabriel Prokofiev has arrived in Moscow to win the hearts of his late grandfather’s co-citizens. RT has talked to the young composer and DJ about his upbringing and his views on modern music.

­Eager to capture the motherland of celebrated ancestor, Prokofiev Junior has brought a very special performance to the Russian capital, which involves a string quartet and two DJ turntables

“I’m presenting a classical club night called Non-Classical which is something I have been doing in London for eight years,” Gabriel Prokofiev told RT. “You have contemporary classical music performed live but more in the manner you’d find in a jazz, rock or dance club. I’m DJ-ing at the beginning of the night, then we have a live string quartet, then I’m DJ-ing the remixes of the string quartet.”

Prokofiev says such an “informal way of presenting classical music” helps to break the barriers.

“Many people are intimidated by classical music, but if you put them in a more relaxed atmosphere like a bar or a club, the barrier is actually broken down and they can connect to the music,” Prokofiev said.

Such a subtle approach may have something to do with Prokofiev’s upbringing. Despite a considerable musical heritage, the grandson of the Russian genius was never forced to do music.

“There are seven grandchildren of Sergey Prokofiev, and I’m the only one doing music. It was something that just came of natural desire,” Prokofiev told RT. “My parents were quite careful not to push me into classical music. When I was 10 or 11 years old, I started writing pop songs with a friend at school. As time went by, I found I really had a passion for classical music as well, so I started composing it and eventually studied classical music at university. If I had been pushed into it, it’s less likely I’ll be doing that now.”

Although at first Prokofiev was more interested what he calls “urban folk music,” his attention finally shifted to the classical scene.

“I’ve been attracted to some kinds of hip-hop and electronic dance music, because there is real energy and creativity there,” Prokofiev told RT. “I see this as urban folk music of my generation. Folk music doesn’t always have to be old-fashioned acoustic. There’s always something that has been created by people in a very organic way. But I find it quite frustrating how the music industry works – it’s very restricted. You have to fit into the genre and style. With contemporary classical music, there’s emphasis on being original and free. You have a chance to write pieces with more extended structure.”

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