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The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years

  • Paperback
A study in contrasts, the career of Sergey Prokofiev spanned the globe, leaving him witness to the most significant political and historical events of the first half of the twentieth century. In 1918, after completing a program of studies at the St. Petersburg conservatory, Prokofiev escaped Russia for the United States and later France where, like most emigre artists of the time, he made Paris his home. During these hectic years, he composed three ballets and three operas, fulfilled recording contracts, and played recitals of tempestuous music. Scores were stored in suitcases, scenarios and librettos drafted on hotel letterhead. The constant uprooting and transience fatigued him, but he regarded himself as a person of action who, personally and professionally, traveled against rather that with the current. Thus, in 1936, as political anxieties increased in Western Europe, Prokofiev escaped back to Russia. Though at first pampered by the totalitarian regime, Prokofiev soon suffered official correction and censorship. He wrote and revised his late ballets and operas to appease his bureaucratic overseers but, more often than not, his labors came to naught. Following his official condemnation in 1948, many of his compositions were withdrawn from performance. Physical illness and mental exhaustion characterized his last years. Housebound, he journeyed inward, creating a series of works on the theme of youth whose music sounds despondently optimistic. The reasons for Prokofiev's return to Russia and the specifics of his dealings with the Stalinist regime have long been mysterious. Owing to their sensitive political and personal nature, over half of the Prokofiev documents at the Russian State Archive have been sealed since their deposit there in 1955, two years after Prokofiev's premature death. The disintegration of the Soviet Union did not lead to the rescinding of this prohibition. Author Simon Morrison is the first scholar, non-Russian or Russian, to receive the privilege to study them. Alongside wholly or partly unknown score materials, Morrison has studied Prokofiev's never-seen journals and diaries, the original, unexpurgated versions of his official speeches, and the bulk of his correspondence. This new information makes possible for the first time an accurate study of the tragic second phase of Prokofiev's career. Moving chronologically, Morrison alternates biographical details with discussions of Prokofiev's major works, furnishing dramatic new insights into Prokofiev's engagement with the Stalinist regime and the consequences that it had for his family and his health.
The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years
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Sergey Prokofiev was one of the twentieth century's greatest composers—and one of its greatest mysteries. Until now. In The People's Artist, Simon Morrison draws on groundbreaking research to illuminate the life of this major composer, deftly analyzing Prokofiev's music in light of new archival discoveries. Indeed, Morrison was the first scholar to gain access to the composer's sealed files in the Russian State Archives, where he uncovered a wealth of previously unknown scores, writings, correspondence, and unopened journals and diaries. The story he found in these documents is one of lofty hopes and disillusionment, of personal and creative upheavals. Morrison shows that Prokofiev seemed to thrive on uncertainty during his Paris years, stashing scores in suitcases, and ultimately stunning his fellow emigr s by returning to Stalin's Russia. At first, Stalin's regime treated him as a celebrity, but Morrison details how the bureaucratic machine ground him down with corrections and censorship (forcing rewrites of such major works as Romeo and Juliet), until it finally censured him in 1948, ending his career and breaking his health.
Simon Morrison is an Assistant Professor in the Music Department at Princeton University
INTRODUCTION
painstakingly describe[s] the circumstances surrounding Prokofiev in his final years G.S. Smith, Times Literary Supplement The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years should be on every serious music lover's Christmas list. David Gutman, Gramophone
Sergey Prokofiev was one of the twentieth century's greatest composers--and one of its greatest mysteries. Until now. In The People's Artist, Simon Morrison draws on groundbreaking research to illuminate the life of this major composer, deftly analyzing Prokofiev's music in light of new archival discoveries. Indeed, Morrison was the first scholar to gain access to the composer's sealed files in the Russian State Archives, where he uncovered a wealth of
previously unknown scores, writings, correspondence, and unopened journals and diaries. The story he found in these documents is one of lofty hopes and disillusionment, of personal and creative upheavals. Morrison shows that Prokofiev seemed to thrive on uncertainty during his Paris years, stashing scores in
suitcases, and ultimately stunning his fellow emigrés by returning to Stalin's Russia. At first, Stalin's regime treated him as a celebrity, but Morrison details how the bureaucratic machine ground him down with corrections and censorship (forcing rewrites of such major works as Romeo and Juliet), until it finally censured him in 1948, ending his career and breaking his health.
"Provides a much enlarged picture of [Prokofiev's] later life and work...Professor Morrison has adopted a calm and measured approach, with fluently descriptive and comprehensive accounts of his varied output...Much new cultural and ideological context is lucidly provided." --The Musical Times
"In his new book Morrison greatly illuminates episodes, hitherto barely known, in the life of the composer after his return to the USSR. The small facts and biographical details in the 400 pages are arranged, as if by themselves, into a picture of the tragedy of Prokofiev as a person and an artist."--Gazeta "Kul'tura" (Moscow)
"A phenomenal study."--El Pais
"Morrison reveals new and captivating information about a period of Prokofiev's life that has been little known. Enthusiastically recommended for public and academic libraries."--Library Journal
"Morrison has filled so many gaps that The People's Artist is a book all Prokofiev's admirers will need. He gives us a wholly convincing picture of the elusive mix of aesthetic bureaucracy and terror that informed Soviet music life. As is should be, the tale is also an affecting one."--Gramophone
"Morrison's long-awaited book fills a gaping hole in the literature on Russian music. It significantly increases understanding of Prokofiev's decision to return to Soviet Russia, gives a detailed and thoroughly convincing picture of what his life there was like, and sheds welcome light on his creative output from those years, and on the esthetics and achievement of Soviet music generally. Tragedy is indeed its genre: Prokofiev's life, and the lives of his wife
and children, were wrecked in consequence of his character flaws, and this message comes through with heartrending force. This is one of the most affecting books of its kind."--Richard Taruskin, author of The Oxford History of Western Music
"Morrison's book explores the most mis-understood and often mis-reported period of my grandfather's life--his return to Russia. It is very carefully researched, academically sound and objective in its approach; yet very readable, clear and concise. The People's Artist reveals many details of his life that were previously unclear, and the extent of the censorship and difficulties he faced as a Soviet composer."--Gabriel Prokofiev
"[A] groundbreaking study do[es] much to aid our understanding of the composer and his return to the Soviet Union."--Bookforum
"Overdue homage to a composer of whom British critic Robert Layton rightly said, "He never lost his power to fascinate.""--The American Conservative
"Morrison has done a tremendous amount of work in the various Prokofiev archives and is able to give a detailed account of the process whereby each individual work was commissioned, composed, accepted for production or performance, orchestrated, revised (often many times) and reworked in response to criticism or the requirements of directors."--The London Review of Books
"[An] excellent book."--The New York Review of Books
"Morrison has also made thorough use of the very substantial body of archival materials concerning the Soviet administration of the arts that Russian scholars began publishing in the 1990s."--Times Literary Supplement
"Simon Morrison has now produced the most definitive study of Prokofiev the Soviet composer in any language, drawing on a wealth of archival material hitherto unavailable...Indispensable to anyone even casually interested in this field."--Music and Letters
"Unequivocally is and will remain the definitive study of Prokofiev's alter years. It leaves the reader with an enhanced respect for Prokofiev as a brillant composer as well as a man who continued to persevere artistically despite inhuman pressures. It brillantly recalls the horrors of Staliism withour devolving into an ideological screed. Music scholars and lay people alike will enjoy and benifit from reading it." --Opera News
AMS
American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies
American Association for Teachers of Slavic and Eastern European Languages
Society of Dance History Scholars
Congress on Research in Dance
Selling point: Based on unprecedented unrestricted access to primary source material in closed archives
Selling point: First detailed exploration of second half of Prokofiev's career
Selling point: Engages with the current debates on music and politics
Short Title
PEOPLES ARTIST
Language
English
ISBN-10
0199753482
ISBN-13
9780199753482
Media
Book
Format
Paperback
Author
Simon Morrison
DEWEY
B
Year
2010
Imprint
Oxford University Press Inc
Subtitle
Prokofiev's Soviet Years
Place of Publication
New York
Country of Publication
United States
Illustrations
10 halftones, 30 music examples
Publication Date
2010-12-02
Affiliation
Princeton University
Pages
512
Publisher
Oxford University Press, USA
Audience
Professional and Scholarly
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