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DAVID GUTMAN was born in London in 1957. He studied modern history at Cambridge, specialising in Soviet politics and culture. He made a particular investigation of twentieth century Russian music and continued this research while a librarian at Westfield College in the University of London. A contributor to Brio and Books & Bookmen, he has written on subjects as various as Sir Michael Tippett, Olivier Messiaen, Galina Vishnevskaya and John Lennon. David Gutman is a prolific writer of CD and programme notes and, with Elizabeth Thomson, edited The Dylan Companion, The Bowie Companion and The Lennon Companion. He also manages the Repertoire (Recordings) section of the Mechanical Protection Copyright Society, supervising a team of specialist repertoire advisors maintaining the National Discography database.

Prokofiev by David Gutman ISBN: 0946619328
ISBN: 9780946619320
Hardback, 208 pages
50+ photographs and illustrations
£14.95 £13.45
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David Gutman
Prokofiev

Born in the Russia of the Tsars, Prokofiev established himself as an enfant terrible in the musical world in the years up to 1918. After the Russian Revolution he lived abroad, first in the United States, later mainly in Paris.Then came the thirties and, little by little, reconciliation with the new Soviet Russia. He spent the last 17 years of his life in the USSR alternately stimulated and stifled by the cultural policies dictated by Stalin.

As we consider what his music means to us, it becomes necessary to find some explanation for our own ambivalent attitudes to it. On one level Prokofiev’s achievement is obvious. He contributed more new music to the standard symphonic repertoire than any other composer of our time: music for the stage, music for films, concertos, oratorios and sonatas. And yet, while acknowledged as on of the rare 20th Century composers with a genuine sense of fun, Prokofiev the man seems to have been found lacking by previous critics in those complex inner qualities we associate with ‘greatness’. The composer as humorist is familiar enough from Peter and the Wolf, Lieutenant Kijé, and the Classical Symphony. But those masterpieces that do attest to a deeper side of his genius - the wartime sonatas, the Sixth Symphony, even the epic War and Peace - remain comparatively neglected.

David Gutman argues that Prokofiev’s music is more closely bound up with the social upheaval of its time than that of his famous contemporaries. And it is this that has presented intractable problems for critics and public alike. All too often, the life and works have been viewed from the standpoint of ideological warfare with little obligation to achieve a real understanding. One commentator denounces all that Prokofiev undertook in the West. Another subtitles his biography ‘a Soviet tragedy’. Was Prokofiev a truly individual artist? Or did he degenerate into the cultural stooge of an oppressive regime? This book gives a balanced assessment which is surely overdue. Drawing on the reminiscences of friends and colleagues and making copious use of Prokofiev’s extensive letters and diaries, the man is encouraged to tell his own story.

With a catalogue of Prokofiev's works, a bibliography, a select discography and references.


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