- A Word from the Editor
FROM THE DIARIES
- Ettal 1922-23 (Sviatoslav Prokofiev)
- A Bad Dog (Serge Prokofiev)
- On Contemporary Russian Music
FEATURE: The Fiery Angel
- Prokofiev and Briusov (SimonMorrison)
- Letter to Boris Demchinsky
- Anglo-American Attitudes (David Nice)
- Serge Prokofiev: The Composer as Interpreter (Mark Arnest)
- Story of a Disagreement between Prokofiev and Souvchinsky (Elena Poldiaeva)
A PHOTO - A STORY
ARTISTS ON PROKOFIEV’S MUSIC
- Prokofiev’s Unfinished Concertino: a Twisted Tale (Steven Isserlis)
- War and Peace at the English National Opera (David Nice)
- Concert and CD roundup
from his father's diaries
Ettal: Villa Christophorus (encircled) where Prokofiev lived in 1922-23.
In accounts of Prokofiev, the Bavarian town of Ettal usually appears in connection with his famous opera The Fiery Angel, completed there in 1923. Yet he spent almost a year and a half in Ettal and although The Fiery Angel occupied an important place in the composer’s working life, there was still time for other compositions. Daily life followed its normal course and was packed with incident. Of which more anon.
The end of 1921 and the beginning of 1922 were particularly stressful for Prokofiev: after numerous complications and problems with its production, Love for Three Oranges was finally premiered at the Chicago Opera on 30 December 1921; the following day there were New Year’s Eve celebrations and then a reception for Mary Garden, director of the Chicago Opera, and Prokofiev. Next there was a series of engagements: a performance of the Third Piano Concerto conducted by Albert Coates; a recital at Chicago University on 10 January; a concert on the thirteenth with Nina Koshetz, who sang Prokofiev songs; and on the fifteenth he took part in a grand charity concert in aid of the children of Chicago. Prokofiev was exhausted and dreamed of “relaxing away from the noise” in some remote, attractive spot. But first he was off to New York. Aboard the “Twentieth Century” express, he wrote in his diary: “I am pleased to be leaving. Everything’s over in Chicago, while in New York there will be the concerto with Coates, the New York première of Oranges, Bashkirov and Frou-Frou, and then Europe.”
It was in 1918 that Prokofiev had last seen Boris Nikolaevich Bashkirov, an amateur poet writing under the name of Boris Verin, who had been a friend from their early days in St. Petersburg. Bashkirov had left Soviet Russia for the West in 1921 and gone to his brother Vladimir in the States. Prokofiev met Bashkirov as soon as he arrived in New York. They had much to talk about and nine hours of conversation flew by in a trice. Bashkirov was very enthusiastic about Prokofiev’s idea of spending spring together somewhere in Germany.
Maria Viktorovna Baranovskaia (Frou-Frou to intimates) was a close friend of Prokofiev’s. In her days in St. Petersburg Baranovskaia had studied acting with Meyerhold. She was an interesting, sociable, intelligent and educated woman. Frou-Frou had thought that she would be the ideal wife for Prokofiev but he had other ideas, saying that in spite of her sterling qualities, he didn’t see her as a wife. Late in 1922 Baranovskaia unexpectedly married Alexander Borovsky, a well-known Russian pianist of that time.
Meanwhile on account of the influenza which had laid low Trouffaldino and the Prince, the New York première of Oranges had been postponed until 14 February, the day of Prokofiev’s recital, which, fortunately was in the afternoon. Nevertheless, on the advice of his friend Capablanca, after the recital which had gone well, Prokofiev “took a very hot bath, drank hot milk and lay down for a couple of hours. I put on my tails and went off to conduct the opera.” The première was a great success and the conductor/composer was presented with a wreath, but the following day only a couple of newspapers praised the opera. Prokofiev was surprised and depressed and came to the conclusion that the American public was not yet ready for his music. “It has become clear that my business in America is over for the season. It means that I can leave.” Departure for Europe was fixed for the February.
In spite of everything that had to be done in the week before leaving, Prokofiev managed to visit the Manhattan Club, where the World Champion José Raoul Capablanca, whom he had known since the World Chess Tournament of 1914 in St. Petersburg, was playing forty opponents simultaneously. Prokofiev, a good chess player, held out against the master longer than anyone else. Capablanca, as well as having dealt with his other opponents, continued his game with Prokofiev with the words “Maintenant je vais jouer avec mon ami” and won it twenty moves later in spite of the latter’s determined resistance.
The Atlantic crossing was not pleasant: the ocean was rough and gradually worked up to a real storm but in spite of the discomfort, Prokofiev still managed to work at the piano reduction of his Third Concerto. After the ten-day crossing Prokofiev was finally in France. “I went to Paris for a few days to see Mama, Koussevitzky and Diaghilev and afterwards I was able to go to Berlin and Munich to look for a dacha. […] Koussevitzky said that I would be performing with him on 20 April at the Grand Opéra and that all my compositions should be published. Diaghilev was gentle, pleasant and vague.”
Prokofiev also met Glazunov who was in Paris to conduct a concert of his own works. “Glazunov was polite with me but nothing more.” On the other hand, Medtner whose works Prokofiev had played in America “was exceedingly pleasant and invited me to dinner, which was completely unexpected after his Moscow comment – either Prokofiev’s music isn’t music or I’m not a musician.” Next