sprkfv.net

II

The second document is an extract from an accounts ledger of income and outlays for six months (1935 and 1936). This is the period prior to the composer’s definitive move to the USSR with his family. The financial support of his family was a significant question for most of the composer’s lifetime. The extract is revealing in this respect. Ever since his first tour of the Soviet Union in 1927, Prokofiev was used to dealing with Soviet financial authorities. He was well versed in the intricacies of concluding contracts with publishers and theatres. So in preparation for the tour to the USSR in 1927, Prokofiev functioned as his own impresario, delving into all matters ha-ving to do with the organisation of concerts, the Soviet premiere of his opera Love for Three Oranges, and his fees. Mira Mendelson recalled him skewering her contract for the translation of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play “Betrothal in a Monastery” for Ivan Bersenev’s theatre. (9) A stickler for detail, Prokofiev retained documentation of this type in his personal archive; he never began work without a contract, be it from a publisher or theatre. Moreover, the composer, having enviable mathematical and chess skills, always handled his own accounting: he totalled columns of figures, kept track of dates of payments received and made, and listed the addresses of the organisations and people with whom he was dealing.

Prokofiev’s older son Sviatoslav recalled the fastidious postcards he received from his father’s tours: “[The postcards] were very funny, written with papa’s characteristic ingenuity—now in spirals, then ‘in Chinese’—vertically, then in some other way.” (10) This document, in contrast, contains nothing humorous. Labelled by the Glinka Museum’s cataloguer as an “extract from a savings bank book,” the document is written by the composer in the form of a table. The first column gives dates, the next “c/i” (cash income), then debits, then the amounts in question, and then some notes about the transactions. For example: “17 May 1935 c/i 4,000 rubles. Last am[oun]t dep[osited] to savings acc[oun]t.”This piece of paper and its bookkeeping calculations would certainly be less interesting if the compo-ser hadn’t commented on the transactions. Alongside the previous entries made in blue pencil, Prokofiev checked off the sums with a red and a plain pencil without comment, and added up the figures in a hand-drawn column. Then, enigmatically, he appended at the bottom: “A different Prkfv. 1 p.m.” What did the composer want to say? And when was this notation made? Judging by the question marks in red pencil opposite the series of sums, Prokofiev was trying to recall or clarify their “fate.” Might it be possible that Prokofiev made the final computations in the late 1940s, the period in which he found himself in serious financial difficulty? In August of 1947, Muzfond called upon Prokofiev to settle arrears in the amount of 180,000 rubles for the dacha at Nikolina Gora. (12) In addition, Prokofiev provided substantial financial support to his first wife and children—the latter now grown, though no less dear and beloved. Lina Ivanovna wasn’t working and his sons were in school. In 1947, moreover, Sviatoslav contracted tuberculosis. Having barely recovered after his stroke in 1945, Prokofiev was working enthusiastically on his opera Story of a Real Man, postponing all “financial” propositions until “later” (as is well known, he received only an advance for it and not, after the fiasco of the opera’s run-through, the fee that he had so counted on). And all of this took place in the difficult post-war economic situation of the USSR. It must be mentioned that in 1947 rationing was lifted, and the Soviet currency revalued. For citizens with savings accounts, the size of the revaluation depended on the amount on deposit. So Prokofiev had to put his finances in order.

Based on this hypothesis, it is likely that the annotation on the page dates from 14 to 22 December 1947 (this was the time span of the revaluation). Analysing the document from the standpoint of the colour of the ink, the character and placement of the marks, one can see that the handwriting and alteration with the red pencil are identical to the handwriting and markings in a series of letters from 1947-1948 (from Prokofiev to E. V. Zviagintseva and E. A. Tontegode). (13) So this unremar-kable scrap from the composer’s personal papers now induces serious reflection. The notation “a different Prokofiev” takes on potentially tragic significance. Soviet reality of the late 1940s consistently proved to be perilous for the composer, undermining his already declining health. Still to come was the delay in staging the new version of War and Peace, the arrest of Lina Ivanovna, and the sweeping denunciations of his music for various “sins” (from both opponents and friends)...

But only further study of additional materials will explain whether or not Prokofiev became “different” in the Soviet Union, and when this transformation began to take place. In other words, how long was Prokofiev able to maintain the delusion that this nation and its people would accept his music? This—one of the most crucial questions in the history of the compo-ser’s creative biography—has yet to receive a convincing and cogent answer. The subject, moreover, has become all too alluring for those interested in opportunistic ideological speculation.

(PART 3)   (PART 1)

BACK TO SUMMARY

9 Ivan Nikolaevich Bersenev (1889-1951) was the artistic director and chief actor of the Moscow State Theatre named after Lenin’s Communist Youth League (Moscow Lenkom Theatre).

10 Sviatoslav Prokof’ev, “O moikh roditeliakh,” in M. E. Tarakanov, ed., Sergei Prokof’ev, 1891-1991: Dnevnik pis’ma, besedy, vospominaniia (Moskva: Sovetskii kompozitor, 1991), 221.

11 GTsMMK f. 33, no. 1181.

12 GTsMMK f. 33, no. 1149, l. 6 (excerpts from the diaries of Nikolai Miaskovsky).

13 GTsMMK f. 33, nos. 48, 199, 200, and 202.