After Berlin Prokofiev was happy to return to the peace of Ettal and settle down to work again. But the fifth act of Fiery Angel was causing difficulties and Prokofiev decided to carry on writing, leaving out anything that didn’t work. But he was not happy and matters were not helped by Bashkirov’s behaviour. He had gone to Berlin for four days and ten days later, sent a telegram: “Please send 50,000 marks.” Soon after there was another telegram, this time quite incredible: “Am arriving with fiancée”. In the event Verin arrived alone, announced that he was madly in love and asked Prokofiev’s permission to bring his fiancée to Ettal. The fiancée, poetess Irina Odoevtseva, arrived without waiting for permission. Ten days later she left and Bashkirov said that he had been worn out by her talk. After a while he made preparations to return to Berlin and asked for money from Prokofiev who had become increasingly disillusioned with his friend: “I am annoyed with him – since April he has written half a dozen lines of mediocre verse; the rest of the time he spent, relaxing in an armchair with a jug of beer, belly sticking out. And now we want to go to Berlin to go courting. I am amazed that a man who in most respects, strives to improve himself, is not aware just how despicable he is when he sponges! If he had written thirty sonnets in this time, it would be right for him to dash off to Berlin. [...] With charming phrases like ‘What a dependable friend you are’, this month he has cost me 400 francs (200,000 marks). It would have been better to post Maiakovsky a new suit in a parcel!”
Meanwhile Prokofiev had finished the Chout Suite and started work on The Fiery Angel again. There was much to be done: he was making a detailed plan for the opera, just as he had done for Seven, They are Seven, and was making additions to the text “rummaging” through Briusov. He was also reading Blok and particularly liked When you stand on my path and Faina’s Song. He made the comment that possibly he liked them because they were nothing like Blok. “In the evenings Mama and I are reading Ehrenburg’s Julio Jurenito. Much of it is clever but somehow it’s the scum of the modern world's confusion.”
As Christmas 1922 approached, Prokofiev was alone with his mother – nobody had made a firm promise to come to Ettal. Nothing from Bashkirov, and Linette had stopped writing. But suddenly one evening Bashkirov arrived and soon after, Linette. “I really didn’t believe that she would come. Champagne appeared, and with it the festive spirit. We had a very cheerful Christmas. We tobogganed down the Ettal slopes.”
On 13 January 1923 Prokofiev wrote the whole of the Faust and Mephistopheles’ final scene and thus finished The Fiery Angel. But this should only be considered a nominal completion: there were still many uncompleted places and the fifth act, as the composer himself admitted, he “had cobbled hastily together”. The end of the fourth act needed re-working and the end of the second needed adding to. Still it was important that the final full-stop had been written in and, as Verin said, “the battleship had been launched”.
Meanwhile something else pleasant had occurred – a major piece, the Scythian Suite, had been given an excellent reception in Brussels. Likewise, the proposed performance of Seven, They are Seven under Koussevitzky was good news. But a piano reduction of the work had to be made as soon as possible. “I didn't think it was possible to arrange it, but somehow or other it's working.”
The subject matter of the books he was reading, changed: in February he read Wells’ History of the World and Tolstoy’s A circle of reading, in which he found “much that was clever but also much that was sanctimonious and often provincial”.
The break in Ettal didn’t last long – a Spanish impresario from Valencia proposed a series of concerts at the beginning of February. Shortly before his departure for Spain, Prokofiev received, after a long interval, “a letter from Miaskovsky, very nice, although rather in the politely restrained style in which Tchaikovsky wrote to Napravnik. I am very fond of Miaskovsky and am glad that we are in contact”. Miaskovsky said that “he was burying himself for four months or so” to orchestrate his Sixth Symphony. Prokofiev’s response in his letter to Miaskovsky of 6 February 1923, is noteworthy: “I am going on tour tomorrow [...] – of course, it’s very enjoyable but I envy you burying yourself away, as that sort of burying yourself away is genuinely the most absorbing thing in the world”.
On 7 February Prokofiev left Ettal for Barcelona, but by an unusual route – he went via Switzerland and stayed a couple of days in Milan to meet Lina and visit Genoa with her: “...we visited the famous cemetery, that marble Bacchanalia of the dead; it was in a delightful park in the middle of the city, on the river bank, lit by a wonderful sunset where there is a house with an amazing colonnade, which, according to local residents, was gambled away by the owner at Monte Carlo”. After an emotional parting from Linette, he made his way along the Riviera, where “one is irritated by the endless numbers of idlers” and went to the Spanish frontier via Marseilles, where he was detained for two days in a border village by officials, in spite of their mutual sympathy and the possession of a visa, in order that they might verify the purpose of his visit. “Such is the sad tradition for Russians dating from the time when Bolshevism made its appearance” wrote Prokofiev bitterly, pointing out that in their time Koussevitzky, Larionov and others had also been detained there.
There were two concerts in Barcelona: Prokofiev played Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, his own Third Sonata and Suggestion Diabolique which was received “noisily”. There were two encores.
The young Spanish composer Mompou played him his “quite nice compositions” and showed him Barcelona. Prokofiev was delighted with the brightly lit narrow streets and the lively crowds. In spite of the fact that it was February, “the sun shone and the boulevard was lined on both sides with magnificent flowers and cages of canaries, hummingbirds and parrots for sale”.
On the way back from Barcelona Prokofiev gave a recital in Brussels and on 3 March he played his Third Concerto in Antwerp. Interestingly he visited “the house/museum of Plantin, one of the inventors of printing in the sixteenth century. It is really a museum of ancient books, manuscripts and sketches, all in a setting of the period when Ruprecht was alive. [...] This house marvellously conveys the atmosphere of The Fiery Angel. When somebody puts on my opera, I shall suggest he visits this house. It has been carefully preserved from the sixteenth century. Faust and Agrippa von Nettesheim might well have worked in such a place”.
Unfortunately, diary entries from 3 March to 1 September 1923 have not been preserved (or perhaps do not exist); or from 9 September 1923 until 1 January 1924, but it is possible to follow the course of Prokofiev’s life from letters to relatives and friends.
In May Prokofiev had two concerts in Paris and his first joint recital with Linette in Milan. There were anxious moments but the concert went off very well and even “surpassed all expectations as Ptashka was naturally nervous about a debut with difficult songs and I had little hope of Verdi’s descendants having a taste for my music. However it didn’t matter as they liked them and the reviews are a proof of this”, he wrote to his friend Alexei Staal on 28 May 1923.
Prokofiev was working a great deal at this period: “I have overstrained my heart so I’ve been recommended rest, to do some work in the garden”, which he was quite happy to do. “I ordered an electric incubator to hatch chicks and became very interested in it” (letter of 6 July 1923 to N.Kucheriavy). In another letter of 30 May 1923 to Fatma Samoilenko: “I have been here in Ettal for a week, absorbed in chickens, turnips, earthworms, and principally with the war on dandelions, which are absolutely horrendous and take over anywhere in their thousands unless you pull them out by the roots. In the meantime I am correcting the Chout Suite and preparing the Classical Symphony for publication”. In another letter to her of 1 September 1923: “I am revising the Finale of the Second Concerto but I’m not able to work very energetically: my heart starts palpitating and hurting”.
And in 1923 the Fifth Piano Sonata was written. The state of his health affected the musical character of this work which is very unusual for Prokofiev’s impetuous temperament. In a letter of 15 July 1924 to Miaskovsky he acknowledges “The slow tempi of the Fifth Sonata are linked to my poor health last summer when I was composing the sonata: my heart wasn’t in good shape”.
But the most important event of the autumn and indeed of the Ettal period, was something quite different. In the second half of 1923 Lina (Carolina) Codina and Sergei Prokofiev decided to get married. They were informed of the bureaucratic complications and lengthy formalities required for foreigners in Germany, by F.Evald, a kind and influential friend, who lived in Munich and was staying at Prokofiev’s in Ettal. Evald offered to help them and was true to his word. On 8 October, two days earlier than expected, in the presence of the Bürgermeister and witnessed by Maria Prokofieva and Boris Bashkirov, whose signatures are on the marriage certificate, the solemn marriage ceremony took place in the Ettal Town Hall and the above-mentioned certificate was issued. Shortly after the wedding the young couple went to Paris, where a Prokofiev concert had been scheduled for 18 October. Maria Grigorievna’s health did not allow her to make the journey and she stayed with Bashkirov in Ettal to come on later, when she felt better.
In letters to his aunt, Yekaterina Grigorievna Raievskaia (his mother’s sister), Prokofiev wrote on 16 November 1923 and 5 February 1924: “At the moment I’m in Paris on musical business with my wife – because I’m married. [...] My wife is twenty-five, not tall, born in Madrid, educated in Geneva and New York. Her mother, née Nemysskaia, daughter of a State Councillor, lives in America. Her father, Juan Codina, an artist, is the son of a sea captain. Linette has appeared at the Opera House in Milan (coloratura soprano) with me (my songs), speaks and writes Russian, French, English, Spanish and Italian - all equally well, German and Catalan not so good. The wedding took place in the Town Hall”. Back