The Lieutenant Kizhe Suite   


To compose the Kizhe Suite, Prokofiev worked directly from the original manuscript scores that he had penned for the recording of the Lieutenant Kizhe soundtrack. For the outer movements of the suite – formed primarily simply by joining together numbers of the film score – Prokofiev used pencil and purple ink to add bar numbers to the manuscripts indicating their place in the suite movements. For example, “Kizhe’s Birth” unites Nos. 1, 4, 6, 10 and 17 of the film score, without using any newly composed material (the film score numbers and their place in the suite are summarised in the Appendix). Such consolidation rather than extraction echoes the approach Prokofiev used in the Suite from Love for Three Oranges (Op.33bis), which, unlike other suites, “was fashioned from fragments taken from various points of the opera; basically speaking, composing anew from prepared material”. (13)

But the economy of the film score meant that merely joining numbers to create longer movements would not suffice to create a suite of any significant length. Material from the film score needed expansion, a task that Prokofiev worked out in the interior movements. Movements 2 to 4 all take as their point of departure one or two numbers from the film score and expand them through repetition and changes of accompaniment, with little melodic development. The second movement unites two strophic songs from the film (for baritone soloist) supported by increasingly imaginative instrumental colours and countermelodies that represent a full-scale revision of the film score’s transparent and unvarying accompaniment of harp and celesta. The third and fourth movements remain close to the film score even in accompaniment, the extensions here resulting almost entirely from repetition (although the comical D major excursion in the third movement [Rehearsal Number 35] and the slow introduction and conclusion of the fourth movement are unique to the suite). (14) These extensions, and especially the accompanimental development of the second movement, led to the peculiar situation of the suite having in essence more musical material than the score from which it was extracted.

The final movement of the suite uses as its core the one moderately lengthy number of the film score (No.16), which is itself a miniature suite of sorts, comprised of material from earlier numbers with only slight changes in orchestration. In the suite, Prokofiev sandwiches the number relatively unchanged between statements of a trumpet fanfare from the film score (No.4). But in contrast to the simple joining of numbers practiced in the first movement, Prokofiev added to the movement a section unique to the suite, one that combines the theme of the second movement with the wedding theme of the third movement, pitting G minor against F major (see example 1).

Example 1: Lieutenant Kizhe Suite V., Rehearsal Number 61:

In the film music Prokofiev had enhanced the militaristic colour of the film with the winds and percussion of a small chamber orchestra. (15) Such orchestration, if preserved in the suite, would have undoubtedly limited its appeal to standard symphony orchestras. Thus, a great deal of Prokofiev’s efforts with the suite focused on changing the orchestration to boost the role of the strings. Prokofiev indicated modifications with notes carefully written into the margins and between the lines of the manuscript of the film score, which was then used to produce a working score of the suite. Sometime after the full score of the suite was copied, Prokofiev returned to the work and inserted alternate versions of the second and fourth movements that do not require a vocal soloist – ostensibly to target better Gutheil’s non-Russian market. (16)

Considering the paucity of musical material in the Lieutenant Kizhe film score, it is significant that seven numbers from the film score are completely absent from the suite (see Appendix). This exclusion illuminates a chief difference between the overall character of the suite and its parent work. (17) The missing numbers from the film score fall into two groups: the first (Nos.2, 3, and 8) are scored for solo percussion, a sound quality that Faintsimmer used to great acerbic effect in the film. One reviewer commented, “the rhythm of the drums continues through the entire film – during the wedding, during the funeral, during Paul’s amorous scenes – lending an extraordinarily sharp, grotesque background to the entire film”. (18) Another critic echoed this sentiment, finding that the “grotesque colouring” of the use of percussion “is perceived by the listener as sarcasm”. (19) By avoiding this aspect of the film score, the suite significantly diminishes the sardonic tone of Prokofiev’s original work. (20) The second group (Nos.5, 7, 9, and 15) contains the film score’s most dissonant and strident moments. Example 2 shows one such instance, which in the film accompanies the rather fantastic scene where a non-existent Lieutenant Kizhe is flogged as punishment for waking the Tsar. (21)

Example 2: Lieutenant Kizhe (film score) No. 7, “Kizhe flogged”, opening:

Regarding the lower of the two staves labeled “drum”, Prokofiev requests an “old Pavlovsky-type drum, tightened” (staryi pavlovskii baraban, podtianut). He also requests that both drums be played with wooden sticks (dereviann[ye] palochki).   8



(13) Shlifshtein, 1961: 176.
(14) Prokofiev sketched the introduction and conclusion to the fourth movement of the suite in pencil on a blank page of the film score, see RGALI, f.1929, op.1, ed. khr.91, page 8 verso. In the same movement, the melody that appears at Rehearsal Number 46 is one of the only instances where Prokofiev used a melody that was not present in the film score.
(15) Prokofiev may have additionally heard complaints that string tone transferred poorly on early film recording equipment and chose to orchestrate his score accordingly. He was at the outset concerned about how the preponderance of percussion in the score would transfer during the recording process, but early tests at the film studio seem to have quelled his fears. See Prokofiev’s mention of this in his journal, see Prokof’ev, S., Dnevnik 1907-1933, (Paris: sprkfv, 2002), Vol.2, pp. 828-829, (entry dated 2-5/05/1933).
(16) These alternate movements are in Prokofiev’s hand and differences in paper quality make it clear that they were inserted into an already-completed score (RGALI, f.1929, op.1, ed. khr.129).
(17) Miaskovsky refers to parts excluded from the suite score in a letter to Prokofiev (dated 8 February 1935) – ostensibly indicating the film score material Prokofiev did not use in the suite – an artistic decision he found “more to his taste, and undoubtedly more artistically convincing”. See Kabalevskii, 1977: 436.
(18) Nikulin, L., “Zhizn’ pod baraban”, Literaturnaia gazeta, 4 Feb 1934.
(19) Ostretsov, “Rol’ muzyka v zvukovoi fil’me”, typescript with corrections by the author. RGALI, f.652, op.4, ed. khr.78.
(20) While this might be attributed simply to avoiding the excessive use of solo percussion in an orchestral work, the composer’s nearly contemporaneous Egyptian Nights Suite (Op.61) features an entire movement for percussion alone (No.3, “The Alarm”). Prokofiev’s Soviet biographer Izrail Nestiev felt this movement to be “utterly ineffective in the concert hall” and claims that Prokofiev stated that the movement could be omitted. See Nestyev, Israel, Prokofiev, trans. Florence Jonas, (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1960), 254.
(21) In addition to No.7, the other non-percussion numbers not used in the suite are Nos.5, 9, and 15. No.15 is another relatively dissonant number used in the film to enhance the scene of Kizhe’s “death”. No.5 is nearly identical to No.6 (and therefore somewhat vague in terms of its use in the film score) and No.9 is an unaccompanied solo song that the Tsar performs to entertain the female lead, Gagarina.