Author Topic: Prokofiev and Stalin  (Read 4722 times)

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Offline rappy

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Prokofiev and Stalin
« on: October 19, 2007, 02:08:31 PM »
Some detractors say that Prokofiev (and also Shotakovich) wrote catchy compositions such as the 7th symphony due to pressure from Stalin. Are there any reliable sources? What do you think about such a reproach?

hornteacher

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2007, 07:01:35 PM »
The book is hardly closed on these two composers.  It is true that Shostakovitch (who remained in the Soviet Union throughout his life) and Prokofiev (who didn't) fell in and out of favor with Stalin, I believe it has been accepted that their musical creativity was not mere propaganda.

Lady Chatterley

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2007, 07:07:47 PM »
The book is hardly closed on these two composers.  It is true that Shostakovitch (who remained in the Soviet Union throughout his life) and Prokofiev (who didn't) fell in and out of favor with Stalin, I believe it has been accepted that their musical creativity was not mere propaganda.

After "getting out" of Russia,Prokofiev went back,what was that all about?He had it made in the shade in Paris and America,and he went back?Very perplexing.
Shosty always told "The Boys"just what they wanted to hear.But what was he thinking?

Offline rappy

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2007, 02:25:36 AM »
But they he (they) also compose just what they wanted to hear?

Offline val

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2007, 02:46:51 AM »
Quote
Muriel
 
After "getting out" of Russia,Prokofiev went back,what was that all about?He had it made in the shade in Paris and America,and he went back?Very perplexing.

Perhaps because he loved Russia? Anyway he composed several masterpieces in Russia (Alexander Nevsky, the 5th and 6th Symphonies, the 2nd violin concerto, the 6th, 7th and 8th piano sonatas, Romeo and Juliet) that are not very different, regarding the style and language, of those composed in the US or France.

Quote
Shosty always told "The Boys"just what they wanted to hear.But what was he thinking?

Shostakovitch is not one of my favorite composers, but I think that you are being unfair. He was a great musician. It is true that he started with works that could be considered influenced by the European "avant garde" (the first two Symphonies, the opera The Nose) and later became more traditional. But some of his string Quartets, the 8th, 10th, 14th and 15th Symphonies, the viola sonata, the piano Trio are deeply inspired. And, after all, no more traditional that western composers such as Vaughan Williams, Britten, Copland, Frank Martin, Honegger, Bloch or Kodaly. 

greg

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2007, 05:56:31 AM »
Perhaps because he loved Russia?
and he was a naive optimist, didn't think that politics would go so bad. Being an optimist all the time isn't a good thing...

karlhenning

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2007, 08:04:09 AM »
Optimistically, I think that being an optimist is always a good thing.

Then, too, there's the Russian proverb: Trust in God, but row to shore.

karlhenning

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2007, 08:16:10 AM »
After "getting out" of Russia, Prokofiev went back, what was that all about? He had it made in the shade in Paris and America, and he went back? Very perplexing.

His success was mixed and volatile in both Paris and America.  He had managed to have The Love for Three Oranges premiered in Chicago, for instance (when Mary Garden, who had created the role of Melisande in That Opera, was director at Chicago), but the opera was a bit much for the company to mount, there was a year's delay, and Prokofiev (whose "people-skills" were sometimes wanting) managed to create some little ill-will there.  The trouble in Paris was a combination of Dyagilev treating Prokofiev with more condescension than he would ever dare offer Stravinsky;  and (in parallel) the flighty Parisians frequently and loudly opining that Prokofiev was never as hip as his elder fellow-emigre.  On the misty contrary, Prokofiev was in steady contact with his friend Myaskovsky;  and an unfortunate combination of Prokofiev's naivete, and Myaskovsky probably tinting things a bit rosier than the genuine situation quite warranted, partly inclined Prokofiev to return home (plus, there's often the homesickness factor.  Then, too, Moscow very shrewdly angled for the propaganda coup of luring back home such a prominent soon-to-be-former-emigre composer;  so when he visited back in Russia, they gave him the treatment.  And (although in the event the now-Kirov Theatre would not perform the premiere, which honor went semi-abroad to Brno), the composer was being courted with a commission for a Shakespearean ballet.

I guess the simple answer, Muriel, would be, "It's complicated"  8)

Offline jurajjak

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2007, 10:12:40 AM »
After "getting out" of Russia,Prokofiev went back,what was that all about?He had it made in the shade in Paris and America,and he went back?Very perplexing.
 

Karl's account is quite accurate.  Prokofiev had some successes in Paris, notably Le Pas D'Acier, The Prodigal Son, and the 3rd Symphony, but also a number of failures, including The Second Symphony (now considered a masterpiece), On the Dneiper (which many still find tepid), and the original version of the 4th Symphony (written for a deadline).  He often feared Stravinsky was overshadowing him, and once said that he didn't understand how Parisians could claim a work such as The Fiery Angel "wasn't modern enough."  What he was being offered in the USSR probably seemed far more attractive than playing second banana in Paris.

As for Prokofiev's 7th Symphony (which the original poster brought up), it was intended, as the composer said, "for young audiences," which accounts for its simplicity.  Prokofiev was also very ill at the time, nearing death; and of course, between 1948-53, composers dared not write dissonant compositions, after the Zdhanov incident.


andrew

Lady Chatterley

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2007, 02:20:20 PM »


Shostakovitch is not one of my favorite composers, but I think that you are being unfair. He was a great musician. 

 Well that's what I'm talking about.Dimitri Dimitriyevitch didn't care much for political intrigue ,I think he was prepared to "yes" the Big Boys of Red Square just so they would leave him alone and let him compose.That's what he did care about.

Offline Cato

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2007, 02:55:35 AM »
Karl Henning's reply above is most accurate: from where we stand, it is easy to say: "What was Prokofiev thinking?"

But he was a offered a secure life, although exactly how secure it would be - with a vengeance - was apparently not clear to Prokofiev.  Remember also that the Communist propaganda machine fooled a great many people, very intelligent people, as to the reality of the situation.  In some cases, of course, they wanted to believe everything was really a "workers' paradise" rather than a genocidal nightmare.  (Example: somewhere between 7 and 12 million Ukrainians "disappear" in the 1930's.)

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greg

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2007, 04:42:38 AM »
Some detractors say that Prokofiev (and also Shotakovich) wrote catchy compositions such as the 7th symphony due to pressure from Stalin. Are there any reliable sources? What do you think about such a reproach?
did i even read the opening post?  ;D
well, it seems to me that the style of the 7th really wasn't "forced" on him... after writing the 2nd symphony, he kept on talking about developing a "new simplicity" which he does develop, and i think it just evolved into the 7th symphony, in a way.

Offline Cato

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2007, 04:50:34 AM »
I have always considered Prokofiev's Sixth Symphony his greatest work, and direct, brutal, sarcastic satire on Communist life in Russia at that time.
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Offline jurajjak

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Re: Prokofiev and Stalin
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2007, 01:02:48 PM »
did i even read the opening post?  ;D
well, it seems to me that the style of the 7th really wasn't "forced" on him... after writing the 2nd symphony, he kept on talking about developing a "new simplicity" which he does develop, and i think it just evolved into the 7th symphony, in a way.

It's tough to say...Prokofiev did want to develop his new simplicity after returning to Russia, but this "simplicity" also encompassed very elaborate works like the October Cantata.  How one goes from the October Cantata from the Seventh Symphony, or even from the Fifth Symphony to the Seventh, is probably a more complicated matter.

 

Offline vandermolen

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« Last Edit: October 24, 2007, 02:52:44 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).