One of these scores, and the one perhaps most beyond my ability to even think of playing it, was the first edition of Prokofiev’s Simfoniya-Kontsert or Symphony-Concerto, Op. 125 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoye muz´kal’noye izdatel’stvo, 1959), a “klavir”, or piano reduction for the use of students, edited and arranged by Rostropovich, to whom the work is dedicated, and with an introductory essay by Vladimir MikhaÝlovich Blok, the textual editor.(3) Although I never put it on a music stand, I did enjoy following it as I listened to what was then the only recording of the work, by Rostropovich with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Malcolm Sargent, made in 1957 during a concert tour. The trouble was, I kept getting lost in the finale, and it took me a long time to figure out that for a long stretch in the middle of the movement (pp. 68-84, rehearsal figs. -), the score presented two versions concurrently. There was a footnote, visible in Fig. 2, which announces (in the anonymous English translation) that “the musical text printed in brevier is a version of the middle episode of this movement.” That didn’t help, since I didn’t know the English word “brevier” (and have never encountered it since). If I had been able to read the Russian version of the footnote in those days, I would have done better, since it was somewhat clearer and more specific: “The musical text in small print shows an alternative version for the middle episode of this movement.”(4) What made the score confusing was that the alternate text was not in fact distinguished in size from the main text. Left hand, evidently, had not consulted right in the Muzgiz office.
Fig.2 (Click to Enlarge)
Once I had figured things out, I could follow as Rostropovich performed the odd-numbered systems on each score page. I doped out the even-numbered systems for myself at the piano, and found them to be a somewhat faceless waltz that reminded me a little of the ones in the first act of Prokofiev’s War and Peace or the popular waltz in the suite from Khachaturian’s Prokofiev-derived music for Lermontov’s Masquerade. I have never heard it performed either live or on record and wonder if it ever has been. The music in the odd-numbered systems, also a bit waltz-like but grotesque in a familiarly Prokofievesque way, and with some especially amusing variations, was so obviously better that I had to wonder why Prokofiev had provided an alternative to it. Was it to make the music easier for poor cellists like me? If so, it didn’t go far enough (and elsewhere in the Symphony-Concerto there were alternative passages marked “facilitazione”, which might have been done here as well had that been the reason).(5) What, then, was the point of it?
Scholarly interest replaced idle curiosity when I was asked, some three decades later, for a programme note to accompany a performance of the Symphony-Concerto by Mischa Maisky and the San Francisco Symphony.(6) By now, Vladimir Blok’s monograph was available, and so I looked the piece up and was informed that the music for which Prokofiev had supplied an alternative had been based on a song called B´vaitse zdarov´ (“Be healthy”—obviously a toast). A footnote informed me further that “the song ‘B´vaitse zdarov´’ (in Russian, ‘Bud’te zdorov´’), often taken for a Belorussian folk song, is actually by the composer I[saak Isaakovich] Lyuban [1906-75] (and was not a folk arrangement but a personal reflection of the intonational and emotional makeup peculiar to Belorussian folk music)”(7). Blok noted that Prokofiev’s theme was not a literal quotation of its model:
- In the theme of the central episode, the song “B´vaitse zdarov´” has undergone substantial changes in melodic design and in its intonational and modal makeup (especially at the end), as well as in its general structure. At the same time, in its intonational patterning, its springy rhythm and its general emotional colouration, Prokofiev’s theme is undeniably close to western-Slavic folk dances. The humorous colouration of the whole central episode is obvious. It is as if the composer were parodying a performance by a little amateur ensemble, sometimes striking the “wrong” (but of course cunningly worked out) harmonies, sometimes fervently bringing out impossibly banal bass lines… The tragicomically bumbling final cadence evokes a smile.(8)
Parody reaches a peak in the second variation (fig. ), where, as Blok notes, “the theme sounds deliberately dejected as played by a quintet of solo strings (typical of rural festivities in eastern European countries!),” adding that “Prokofiev wittily called this episode the ‘poor relations,’”(9) and that “the picturesqueness of the music, its richness of genre portraiture and its humorous imagery are akin to certain characteristic sketches by Musorgsky”.(10)
All of this is quite plausible, as a comparison of Lyuban’s tune (Moscow-Leningrad: Muzgiz, 1941) (11) with Prokofiev’s theme will confirm. As Blok pointed out, the resemblance is closest at the beginnings of the tunes, with two parallel phrases that outline the degree progressions 1-3-1 and 3-5-3, respectively, and a melodic peak at the octave subsiding at the end to the first degree. Prokofiev’s tune has two very characteristic, distinguishing features not found in Lyuban’s: the start on the lower fifth rather than the tonic, and the chromatic middle phrase with its “wrong notes.” But greater elaboration is something one would only expect from a high-echelon composer like Prokofiev.
And yet, learning that Prokofiev had borrowed the tune from the work of someone he, a notorious snob, could only have regarded as a hack composer only added another puzzle. I still had no idea why he should have resorted to quoting a song by Lyuban, nor (especially) why he supplied an alternative to it so as to allow performers to avoid it. Most puzzling of all was the fact that both the Concertino for Cello, Op.132 and the unfinished solo sonata, Op.134, also made use of the tune putatively borrowed from Lyuban, in both cases, moreover, altering it further so that its resemblance to the original became less noticeable, and even a bit farfetched. Blok of course took note of this anomaly: “Strictly speaking, what appears in the solo Sonata, as well as the Concertino, is not the actual melody of the song ‘B´vaitse zdarov´’ but a further extension of the metamorphosis that is given first in the Symphony-Concerto... in other words, an odd ‘transformation of a transformation’”.(12) Later he calls the resurfacings of the tune “a very rare instance of a distinctive ‘variation at a distance’ of a single theme in three different, generically related works”.(13) In a footnote he recalls a similar instance in Beethoven: the melody that recurs in Beethoven’s Variations and Fugue for piano, Op.35, the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, Op.43, and the finale to the Eroica Symphony, Op.55 (to which he could have added the 12 German Contradances, WoO 14).
This seemed nothing short of an obsession. But why this tune? Was Prokofiev trying to tell us something? Wondering about such things was an indoor sport or a cottage industry back in 1989, when everyone was looking for ciphers and portents in Soviet music (particularly the music of the immediate post-Zhdanovshchina period) in response not only to the “collapse of communism” that was going on around us, but also in the wake of Solomon Volkov’s then ten-year-old Testimony and all the controversies it had stirred up. Noticing, on nothing more than my own experience and background, a Jewish tinge in Prokofiev’s theme and its handling, I’m afraid I took the bait in my fortunately never much read and now forgotten programme note (I’ll leave it to my enemies to dig it up). But my conjectures then, which I hereby disown with gusto, were as nothing compared with the sort of speculation that followed upon another discovery. Prokofiev’s theme, it seemed, bore an equal similarity to another song by Lyuban (who seems to have had a remarkably restricted “intonational” range, to put it the way Soviet critics used to do). This song was called Nash tost (“Our toast” ; rev. 1948 [Moscow: Muzgiz, 1948]), and it had a text by Matvey Kosenko that made it politically sensitive, to say the least.
Whereas the words of B´vaitse zdarov´ were innocuous (“Be healthy, live richly, etc.”), Nash tost begins, “If we meet some old friends at a holiday celebration, we recall all that we hold dear and our song rings out all the more joyously,” and it ends “Rise, comrades! Let us drink to the Guard! None can equal its bravery! Our toast is to Stalin! Our toast is to the Party! Your toast is to the banner of our victories!”
Not something to mess around with, this. And so the fact that Prokofiev appeared to be messing around with it elicited a lot of excited commentary, especially in the blogosphere, of a sort that no report of this kind would be complete without. Here, for example, is the giddy reaction of one Boris Zindels, a record collector and dealer from Kiev, on the blog “The Prokofiev Page”:
- Prokofiev had managed the last laugh on the “cockroach with whiskers” in the finale of his Sinfonia Concertante for Cello and Orchestra, op.125... I had been lucky enough to attend the final rehearsal and concert performance of Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante in Kiev on 24 March,1998 to honor the memory of Sviatoslav Richter who had died the previous August... When the triple time central theme of the finale started I felt shivers down my spine—there was an old “official” drinking song to Stalin! Unfortunately I couldn’t recall the exact name of the song nor its composer. Just one line of the toast screamed in my head: Vypiem za Rodinu! Vypiem za Stalina! [Let’s drink to the Motherland! Let’s drink to Stalin!] How brave Sergei Sergeyevich had been to treat such “sacred” material in such a scathingly satirical manner during such a bleak period in his life! (14)
The reference to the “cockroach with whiskers” is an allusion to the poem about Stalin that cost Osip Mandelshtam his life. It is a typical hyperbole of the post-Testimony period. The line Mr. Zindels quotes from the text—“Vypiem za Rodinu! Vypiem za Stalina!”—is not in the published version of the song that I consulted, but it was very likely sung during the period of the song’s currency, since Za rodinu! Za Stalina! (For the motherland! For Stalin!] was a catchphrase during the war, used not only in toasts but also as a battlecry. As patriotic allusion, a reference to this song in a symphonic work might be plausible, but to allude to it (or even a song resembling it) as post-Zhdanov mockery it is (forgive me, Mr. Zindels) inconceivable, and to imagine Prokofiev doing such a thing is wishful and preposterous.
Problems were multiplying. Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto was starting to resemble Russia itself as described by Churchill: “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”(15) But information continued to trickle. A major contribution came inconspicuously from Rostropovich, the man who inspired Prokofiev to revise his unsuccessful Cello Concerto of 1938 into the Symphony-Concerto in the first place. In a memoir first published (as far as I know) in 1997 in the booklet accompanying a CD retrospective, Rostropovich recalled the matter of the quoted tune as follows:
- Prokofiev incorporated a theme that was similar to “Be Of Good Health,” a popular song by Vladimir Zakharov, an apparatchik who mercilessly vilified all “formalists”. After the work was played at the Composer’s Union, Zakharov stood up and said indignantly that he would write to the papers complaining that his own wonderful tune had been totally distorted. When I related this to Prokofiev he wrote a replacement tune (a waltz, which I never played), and said that once everything had settled down we could quietly revert to the original tune. (16)
Rostropovich’s attribution of the tune to Zakharov is mistaken but understandable. Vladimir Grigorievich Zakharov (1901-56), an infamous denouncer but not at all a bad musician, was the director of the Pyatnitsky Choir, Russia’s leading folk song-and-dance ensemble (founded by Mitrofan Yefimovich Pyatnitsky in 1910, before the revolution). He had arranged and recorded Lyuban’s songs with the group.(17) Perhaps that is all he claimed when registering his complaint (Rostropovich does not actually say he witnessed the scene, only that he reported it to Prokofiev). In her biography of Rostropovich (largely based on interviews with him), his former pupil Elizabeth Wilson confirms the generally accepted attribution of the song and also adds some detail to the story, although the question of Rostropovich’s status as an eyewitness is left unaddressed.
- The concerto found an unexpected antagonist among its listeners when it was auditioned. On hearing the theme in the Allegretto interlude of the finale (fig.15), the director of the Piatnitsky Choir, Zakharov, jumped up and accused Prokofiev of plagiarism. The simple tune, a song with a Belorussian title, Byvaitse zdorovy (known in Russian as Bud’te zdorovy and in translation meaning “Be healthy”), had actually been composed by I. Lyuban, but Zakharov had arranged it for the Piatnitsky choir. Some confusion exists as to its true authorship, since the melody had become so popular that it was considered a folk song. Zakharov appeared to claim it as his own, and now charged Prokofiev with stealing it, demanding royalties and an apology. When Slava went to Prokofiev’s home to tell him of the successful outcome of the audition, he also told him of the “scandal” that had erupted. Prokofiev laughed and said, “Well, next time I use it, I’ll disguise the tune so well that Zakharov won’t even recognise it.” He was as good as his word. (18)
This version of the story seems to provide a rationale for the presence of (disguised?) variants of the tune in the Concertino and the Solo Sonata. Relying on the facts as reported by Rostropovich and Wilson, Simon Morrison counters the sort of implausible though regrettably rife readings that Zindels (or Igor Vishnevetsky, as quoted in note 17) have proposed by recalling the stringent political atmosphere within which Prokofiev was working, as well as a notice that had appeared earlier in 1952 in the magazine Sovetskoye iskusstvo, informing readers that “Sergey Prokofiev has been working with great intensity on his Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra,” and that “in his composition the author has made broad use of Russian folksong material.”(19) Morrison writes:
- Both [Lyuban’s and Zakharov’s] songs became popular during the war, and both tended to be performed in concert in different variations, a practice good-humouredly reprised by Prokofiev in his score. Given that these songs [Bud’te zdorovy and Nash tost] were sung as toasts to Stalin Prokofiev would have been foolhardy to mock them in his concerto. It seems more likely that the paraphrase was intended as a sincere (not cynical) response to his official censure in 1948, when he was instructed to increase the popular content of his scores. The Sovetskoye iskusstvo columnist who mentions the “Russian folksong material” in the concerto was either engaging in specious politesse or referring to “Our Toast.” (20)
It is refreshing that Morrison does not indulge in foolhardy speculations of his own, and it is quite true that Prokofiev’s output during the miserable half-decade that remained to him after his official censure contains sincerely (not cynically) patriotic and “Party-minded” (partiyn´ye) compositions such as the oratorio Na strazhe mira (usually translated “On Guard for Peace,” though “Guarding the Peace” or “In Defence of the Peace” would be closer to the meaning of the Russian title) or the “festive poem” for orchestra, Vstrecha Volgi s Donom (“The Volga Meets the Don”), composed in 1951 to celebrate the opening of the 101-kilometre Lenin Volga–Don Shipping Canal (largely constructed with slave labour from the Gulag) in 1952. There are also several works that incorporate folk melodies from Russian or other Soviet sources, like the ballet Kamenn´y tsvetok (The Stone Flower) and, most notably, the opera Povest’ o nastoyashchem cheloveke (The Story of a Real Man), in which a northern Russian folk song becomes one of the opera’s main leitmotives, as well as appearing in its original form sung by a chorus as an epigraph. There are, moreover, a couple of spots in the first and second movements of the Symphony-Concerto in which recognisably folklike “intonations” crop up in melodies that were not present in the original concerto of 1938 (e.g., I: fig. , II:7 after ). These would justify the words of the anonymous reporter for Sovetskoye iskusstvo without reference to the middle section of the finale, which, as Morrison implies, draws upon a wholly different set of “intonations”. The introductory note by Blok in the 1959 klavir (printed in both Russian and English) repeats the claim of the anonymous reporter for Sovetskoye iskusstvo, and couches it in the unmistakable jargon of late-Stalinist or post-Zhdanov musicography—but without reference to Lyuban or Zakharov, and I would wager that at the time he wrote the note Blok had no inkling of what he would later report in his monograph:
- The brightly national nature of Prokofiev’s musical language became even more pronounced in the works of the last years of his life, and their melodism acquired ever greater cantilena quality and broadness. These features of the new stage in his creative work found their reflection also in the Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1952)... The finale, Andante con moto, bears the imprint of Slavonic song and dance tradition and is a convincing and life-asserting conclusion of the composition. (21)
The main problem nevertheless remains: there is no getting around the grotesquerie of that middle section, which (as Morrison obliquely admits) would have been terribly and dangerously inappropriate were Prokofiev actually quoting a toast to Stalin, or even a fakesong by Lyuban or Zakharov meant to come from the mouths of peasant-impersonators.
That is why I do not believe that Prokofiev was actually quoting such a song. None of the accounts thus far quoted—whether Blok’s, Rostropovich’s, Wilson’s or Morrison’s —actually attributes the information about the derivation of the theme in question to Prokofiev. Why assume that Zakharov’s supposed recognition of the tune and his characteristically bullying threat was a response to something that Prokofiev had deliberately done? The mere fact that Zakharov “found” a song by Lyuban in the middle of Prokofiev’s finale is not evidence of its being there. As it happens, there is another—to my mind, simpler and more convincing—way of accounting for the theme that has occasioned all of this reportage and interpretation. Example 3 shows the main theme of the finale, which was taken over directly from the earlier Cello Concerto, Op. 58. Both in that work and in the Symphony-Concerto that theme is followed by a series of variations. Following the theme in Ex.3 is a demonstration, loosely modelled on the “Functional Analysis” or F/A method that readers with long memories may still associate with the late Hans Keller, of a series of putative stages through which the variations theme can be transformed, using only familiar elementary devices, into the theme of the middle section.
If we assume, as I am proposing, that the theme of the middle section of the finale is merely another variation of the opening theme, then we do not have to wonder which Lyuban song Prokofiev had adapted, or what he meant by doing so, or why he made the music sound so grotesquely humorous. Turning an abstract theme into a dance of recognisable genre is a standard technique when writing “character variations”, of which Beethoven’s Diabelli set was the prototype. Viewed thus, Prokofiev was doing exactly what Stravinsky did in the also grotesquely humorous second movement of his Octet for winds, in which the theme becomes by turns a recognisable march, a recognisable waltz, and (according to some) a recognisable can-can, before becoming a fugue. Or recall Charles Ives’s “Variations on America” for organ, in which a tune that at least half of the readers of Three Oranges will recognise as “God Save the Queen” is put through grotesquely humorous paces that include a waltz and a polonaise.
So here is a new scenario to consider: in transforming the finale of his older Cello Concerto, Op. 58, into the finale of his Symphony-Concerto, Op.125, Prokofiev wrote a new variation of the main theme that had the character of a waltz as played by a village band. I still think it sounds Jewish—that is, “klezmerish”—and now there is no reason why it shouldn’t.(22) There is no contradiction, in fact, between sounding Jewish and sounding Belorussian, in case you prefer the latter. “Belorussian” and “Jewish” were long associated, quite unironically, in Tsarist Russia and the early Soviet Union. From 1922 until sometime after 1937, the high proportion of Jews in the population of the rather small Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic actually made Yiddish one of the republic’s official languages, and the republic’s official seal even had the illustrious slogan adapted from Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto in Yiddish alongside Russian and Belorussion.(23)
As Marina Frolova-Walker informed us during question time at the Cambridge conference “1948 and All That”, after I had given the gist of this article as a talk, “Belorussian” was a common Soviet euphemism for “Jewish” and could work also in the opposite direction, as an alibi (hence Blok’s reference to the “Slavonic song and dance tradition”).
But I digress. To return to my proposed scenario: on hearing Prokofiev’s “Belorussion” variation, Zakharov was reminded of the tune by Lyuban (whose first name and patronymic identify him beyond doubt as Jewish) and registered an objection to it, whether on grounds of “plagiarism” or (as I suspect) on grounds of racial (er, “national”) prejudice. When Rostropovich carried this news back to Prokofiev, the composer, not relishing the thought of a tussle with a notorious finger-pointer, decided to write a temporary replacement for the offending theme, which was duly published as an alternative in the first edition (where it was ineptly and confusingly presented).(24) And then, just as Rostropovich told Wilson Prokofiev had promised he would do, Prokofiev used the offending tune again in two subsequent works for cello, but with alterations that lessened both its resemblance to Lyuban’s tunes, and to his own variations theme.
My answer—my “final answer”, as they say on TV—to my titular question, then, is “Nothing at all; you’ve mistaken me for somebody else.”
3 Blok (1932-96) was a composer and scholar who made something of a speciality of Prokofiev’s solo cello music. He completed the Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello, Op. 134, from Prokofiev’s sketches; revised Kabalevsky’s completion of the Concertino, Op. 132, and reorchestrated it for Stephen Isserlis; and published a monograph on the subject: Violonchel’noye tvorchestvo Prokof’yeva (Moscow: Muz´ka, 1973).
4 In Russian: Notn´y tekst, napechatann´y petitom, predstavlyayet soboy variant srednego epizoda etoy chasti.
5 According to Rostropovich, Prokofiev insisted on marking the simplified passages facilitazione instead of the customary ossia to make sure that no self-respecting player would choose them; see Mstislav Rostropovich, “Prokofiev as I Knew Him” (1954), in Semyon Shlifstein, (ed.), S. Prokofiev: Autobiography, Articles, Reminiscences (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1960), 247.
6 In the event, Mr. Maisky for some reason performed the Dvorßk Concerto instead, but my note was printed in the programme anyway; the main piece on the programme, conducted by Kurt Masur, was the Alexander Nevsky cantata. The Berlin Wall had fallen a month earlier. I was incredulous that Maestro Masur, one of the much-sung heroes of the events leading up to that great moment, was performing such an orgy of Soviet tub-thumping (one of the few Prokofiev works exempted from the 1948 ban, so that hearing it actually came to irritate the composer—see Sviatoslav Sergeyevich Prokofiev, “O moikh roditelyakh: Beseda s´na kompozitora s mus´kovedom Nataliyey Savkinoy”, in M. E. Tarakanov, (ed.), Sergei Prokof’ev 1891-1991: Dnevnik, pis’ma, besedy, vospominaniia (Moskva: Sovetskii Kompozitor, 1991), 229). I wrote about my dismay somewhat later in the New York Times, thus producing the first of what have been taken—wrongly taken—as my anti-Prokofiev screeds: “ Farewell?”, New York Times, 21 April 1991, sec. 2).
7 Blok, Violonchel’noye tvorchestvo, 66n.
8 Ibid., 129.
9 This detail came from Rostropovich’s memoir (Shlifstein, Autobiography, 247).
10 Blok, Violonchel’noye tvorchestvo, 130.
11 It was published three years earlier in Minsk in a collection called Belaruskiya narodn´ya revolyuts´yn´ya pesni; there is also an edition (Voroshilovsk: Izdatel’stvo “Ordzhonikidzevskaya Pravda”, 1940) that omits the attribution to Lyuban and calls it a Belorussian folk song (information provided by Marina Frolova-Walker).
12 Blok, Violonchel’noye tvorchestvo, 55-56.
13 Ibid., 69.
14 Web link
15 “The Russian Enigma”, speech broadcast 1 October 1939; quoted in William Henry Chamberlin, The Russian Enigma: An Interpretation (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1943), 1.
16 Rostropovich: The Russian Years 1950-74 (13 CDs; EMI 72016), 8.
17 There is a song by Zakharov called Bud’te zdorov´ (Moscow-Leningrad: Muzgiz, 1939) which is the Russian equivalent of B´vaitse zdarov´ and also means “Be Of Good Health”. It is an entirely different song, however, in 4/4 time rather than the triple metre of B´vaitse zdarov´ or Nash tost, and bears no resemblance to Prokofiev’s theme. In his recent, very casually researched biography of Prokofiev, Igor Vishnevetsky somehow leapt from this story to yet another song by Zakharov popular during the war, “Na zakate khodit paren’ vozle doma moego” (“At dusk a fellow strolls past my house”; better known by the words of its refrain, “I kto ego znayet” [“And who knows why”), and piles on the clandestine-message-mongering bandwagon: “Prokofiev could not deny himself the pleasure of working into the theme-and-variations finale a quotation from one of those who had been held up by the organisers of the 1948 persecutions as a model composer—the refrain from the popular song “At dusk a fellow strolls past my house” by Vladimir Zakharov to words by MikhaÝl Isakovsky. The refrain from this universally familiar song emerged in lampoonish, jocular fashion, making the rounds among the various groups of instruments and the solo cello... Prokofiev was caustically ridiculing Zakharov himself, who had inveighed actively against “useless” symphonies and been raised up by a turbid wave to the post of an undersecretary in the Composers’ Union, and with undisguised sarcasm said right to his face what he thought of his unseemly role: ‘And who knows why,/ Why he’s winking, /Why he’s sighing, /What he’s hinting...’” (Igor Vishnevetsky, Sergey Prokofiev [Moscow: Molodaya gvardiya, 2009], 656-57). As Vishnevetsky cites no sources, it is unclear how he arrived at this fairy tale, but it could not have been on the basis of listening to the song or to the Symphony-Concerto. The two have nothing at all in common. The refrain is, like the other Zakharov song mentioned in this note, in duple, not triple, metre, although the verses (as is common in Zakharov’s rather sophisticated songs) are in the triple metre of Prokofiev’s theme; but neither the refrain nor the verses show any resemblance to Prokofiev’s melody (or to Lyuban’s tunes). Vishnevetsky seems to be merely retailing a rumour he has heard.
18 Wilson, Elizabeth, Mstislav Rostropovich: Cellist, Teacher, Legend (London: Faber and Faber, 2007), 74.
19 “Novosti iskusstv”, Sovetskoye iskusstvo, 12 January 1952; cited in “Prokofiev and Atovmyan: Correspondence, 1933-1952”, compiled and annotated by Nelly Kravetz, in Simon Morrison, ed., Sergey Prokofiev and His World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 264.
20 Morrison, Simon, “Review-Article: Rostropovich’s Recollections”, Music and Letters, XCI (2010), 88.
21 Vladimir Blok, preface to the piano reduction of the Symphony-Concerto (Moscow: Muzgiz, 1959), anonymously translated.
22 IzraÝl’ Vladimirovich Nest’yev (1911-93), Prokofiev’s authorised Soviet biographer, agreed. In his biography, which was published in English translation in 1960 (just a little too late for me to consult when I first wondered about the theme and its replacement), he wrote that what he calls the “second theme” in the finale “is in the style of a rhythmic folk dance and is thematically related to the familiar Belorussian song ‘Good Health to You’, but in varying it, the composer gave its simple melody a slight trace of irony. This can be seen in both the ‘moaning’ harmonies and the stylised orchestration, which recall the music played by village wedding bands (the composer jestingly called this episode ‘poor relations’). On the whole, the second theme and its variations convey an amusing picture of everyday life similar in quality to the one found in the Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op.34”. Nestyev, Israel V., Prokofiev, trans. Florence Jonas (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1960), 428. Also compare, for another example, MikhaÝl Fabianovich Gnesin’s Yevreyskiy orkhestr na balu u gorodnichego (The Jewish Orchestra at the Mayor’s Ball), Op.41 (1926).
23 As it appears in the original text of 1848: “Proletarier aller Lńnder, vereinigt euch!” or “Working men of all countries, unite!” (in Russian, Proletarii vsekh stran, soyedinyaites’!)
24 Simon Morrison, in his capacity as editor of this journal, made the tantalising suggestion that the replacement waltz might even have been composed by Rostropovich, who was trained in composition at the Moscow Conservatory, and to whom Prokofiev farmed out a bit of the passagework in the Symphony-Concerto. This must remain conjecture for now, as the autograph score of the Symphony-Concerto became the personal property of Rostropovich, who always withheld his personal archive from scholars, “a prohibition,” Morrison adds, “that his daughter Olga now happily upholds.”