Hardback, 208 pages
50+ photographs and illustrations
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.
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.