Alexander Nevsky: a play for radio and a Prokofiev UK premiŤre (Edward Morgan)
Louis MacNeice’s adaptation of Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (Edward Morgan and NoŽlle Mann)
Prokofiev and St. Petersburg (Harlow Robinson)
FEATURE: Romeo and Juliet
Prokofiev and Sherman: the first Soviet production of Romeo and Juliet (Nelly Kravetz)
FROM THE ARCHIVE: first published
Background to Romeo and Juliet (NoŽlle Mann)
Gergiev’s post-anniversary cycle
of Prokofiev symphonies (David Nice)
CD and DVD reviews
Prokofiev and America (NoŽlle Mann and Tom Sutcliffe)
Two Prodigals in London (Fiona McKnight)
This issue centres on two of Prokofiev’s most popular works, Romeo and Juliet and Alexander Nevsky. Much is known about the complex genesis of Romeo and Juliet, Prokofiev’s Soviet ballet that had to be premiered abroad for want of interest in the composer’s own country. Few readers however will be aware of the frustrations and niggling difficulties Prokofiev encountered in the hands of numerous protagonists, artists and bureaucrats alike, while completing his masterpiece. Nelly Kravetz’s article vividly captures the circumstances that clouded the months preceding the first Soviet production by the Kirov Company on 11 January 1940, while throwing a welcome light on a conductor of great significance but of little fame, Isai Sherman. Documents from the Prokofiev Archive, published here for the first time, complete the Feature, one of them establishing the composer’s major role in the shaping of the ballet synopsis.
How often have I heard the film Alexander Nevsky condescendingly labelled as blatant anti-German Soviet propaganda of the late 1930s! But until now I was unaware – and I suspect many of you are in the same position – that this very work was selected by the British authorities in 1941, just after Germany had invaded Russia, to swing round the views of the British public. By becoming Hitler’s latest victim yesterday’s arch-enemy, communist Russia, was now to be recognised as Britain’s ally. Edward Morgan’s fascinating article retraces these circumstances and shows how the BBC was engaged in a not-too-subtle propagandist campaign, late in 1941, with a radio play based on Eisenstein’s film, with incidental music from Prokofiev’s cantata – a work that had never been heard before in concert outside the Soviet Union.
The third topic in this issue is Prokofiev’s sporadic relationship with St. Petersburg, viewed both through his life and his output. Harlow Robinson’s article draws heavily from the Diary (1907-1933), a remarkable document still unavailable to the non-Russian reader. Even though Prokofiev’s apolitical stance is well known, it is particularly revealing to follow him during the months preceding the October Revolution, when he displays utter detachment from the momentous events that were tearing his country apart.
The Reviews section is particularly rich in this issue as it covers releases, concerts, ballet performances and the latest UK conference dedicated to this composer, Prokofiev and America.