I have a predilection for music from the first half of the 20th century. I can't pinpoint the exact reason why, I suspect it is from absorbing so much music from movies, tv series and computer games which mainly draws on late romantic and early modern idioms. There was also an incredible variety of different styles in that period, but above all, there was a search for something beyond tonality, an exploration that already started in the late works of Franz Liszt. Several approaches were attempted. The Viennese school and its dodecaphonism is probably one of the most influential systems of the early 20th century, but many composers took different paths. So, the musical world was like in turmoil and producing many interesting idioms.
Among them --enough with the lengthy preamble-- is Sergei Prokofiev. The thing is, Prokofiev is actually composing in a tonal style. But somehow it feels very different from anything tonal composed previously. It has nothing to do with Bartók's style either.
So I asked my brother, who is a trained musicologist what makes Prokofiev so distinct and recognizable. He could answer me in some very general terms, it boiling down to using a very personal counterpoint/harmony, breaking the classical rules. But that is still a bit vague. He could not tell me more; as he explained, the standard curricula are so focused on Schönberg or Stravinsky, that they kind of neglect composers like Prokofiev who still compose in a tonal system, to the point of even pooh-poohing them.
So, is there anyone who studied Prokofiev more deeply and can enlighten me a bit on his idiom?