Nikolai Malko: biographical notes
Memories of a Friendship:
from the journals of Berthe Malko
FEATURE: The 1948 Resolution on Soviet Music and its Aftermath
Resolution of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of 10 February 1948 On V. Muradeli’s Opera, The Great Friendship
Response of Sergei Prokofiev to the Resolution of 10 February 1948
The Rise and Fall of the 1948 Central Committee Resolution on Music (Leonid Maximenkov)
Excerpts from The Musical Times, 1948
A new edition of the “long” autobiography
Sergey Prokofiev, Diaries 1915-1923: Behind the Mask (Daniel Jaffé)
Prokofiev Study Day (Edward Morgan)
Bard Music Festival 2008: Prokofiev and His World (Ross Amico)
Ballet Falsehood: The Snow Queen and Rushes (David Nice)
Betrothal in a Monastery (Daniel Jaffé)
Sixty years ago, Prokofiev and six other Soviet composers faced the gravest crisis of their careers in the form of a Central Committee Resolution that, on the surface, seemed directed at a single opera by a second-tier composer. In fact, the February Resolution served notice to the musical elite. “Formalism”, a catch-all term meaning Western modernism, was to be rooted out of musical life in favour of the “classical” conventions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Chromaticism was out, folksiness in. The Resolution was precipitated as much by financial irregularities at the Union of Soviet Composers as by ideological considerations. For Prokofiev, it meant financial hardship, difficulties obtaining commissions, and personal as well as creative stress. The Resolution damaged his self-esteem and, much more seriously, his health.
This issue of Three Oranges features documents about the infamous February Resolution. In keeping with the journal’s emphasis on archival research and primary sources, an article by the Russian political historian Leonid Maximenkov, author of a landmark study of Soviet culture in the 1930s and pre-eminent archival sleuth, describes the various drafts of the Resolution before considering how and why it was overturned in the Khrushchev era. Prokofiev’s response to the Resolution, included in this issue, suggests frustration as well as trepidation. The tone is business-like, but altogether devoid of the matter-of-fact attitude that characterises his other official correspondence.
The composer is presented in an entirely different light in the memoirs of Berthe Malko, wife of the esteemed conductor Nikolai Malko, who championed Prokofiev’s compositions while serving as the artistic director of the Royal Danish Orchestra, among other orchestras. Berthe’s recollections are slight yet provide insight into Prokofiev’s final years in the West. She was among the first – and perhaps last – people to see Prokofiev on his last tour outside of the Soviet Union in 1938. One of the surviving photographs from that tour (also published here) captures the two of them together in Prague, where they saw the 1935 René Clair film The Ghost Goes West, a trifling romantic fantasy about a haunted castle that is relocated, brick by brick, from Scotland to Florida.
As usual, the final pages of the issue contain a cluster of reviews, the most substantive concerning a lavish new edition of Prokofiev’s autobiography. Reports follow on the 2008 Bard Music Festival, two choreographic realisations of lesser-known Prokofiev scores, and a new recording of Betrothal in a Monastery.