Feature: Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff
“...I saw Rachmaninoff in a dream with a bouquet of lilac and yellow flowers...” (Elena Krivtsova)
Prokofiev’s Akhmatova Songs: A Semantic Analysis (Vera Gavrilova)
Prokofiev’s Kazakh Songs, Lost and Found(Simon Morrison)
A ‘Smart Dinner’: Hollywood, Rouben Mamoulian, and the Prokofievs
(Pilar Castro Kiltz)
Prokofiev’s and Krzhizhanovsky’s Eugene Onegin in Princeton: The Program
The Ivan the Terrible Oratorio: Path to the London Premiere (Nelly Kravetz)
A Human Genius in an Inhuman Time
(Alison Smale and Sergei Dreznin)
Three Reviews of Ivan the Terrible in London
Compared to Prokofiev, little is known about the career of Sergei Rachmaninoff. Despite his tremendous fame, there exists no comprehensive study of his years in Russia, the United States, or in between. The technical literature is likewise slight, and the published editions of his letters incomplete and expurgated. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the relationship between Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev has hitherto not been studied in depth. This issue of Three Oranges offers a first attempt at such a study, drawing from two Moscow archives along with Prokofiev’s diaries and Rachmaninoff’s correspondence. The author, Elena Krivtsova, focuses on their points of contact in the United States and Paris: what the two composers thought of each other’s latest works, most recent performances, and the current gossip about them in the press and in émigré Russian musical circles. The last paragraphs turn poignantly to what might have been had Prokofiev not relocated to Russia from France in 1936 and Rachmaninoff not chosen exile in America.
Two other articles in the issue address a pair of mysteries, one musical, the other (for want of a better word) social. Based on information provided by Werner Linden, I summarize the detective work that went into the rediscovery of Prokofiev’s Kazakh folksong arrangements, which have just been performed and recorded in Almaty. Pilar Castro Kiltz describes how Prokofiev and his wife Lina were feted in Hollywood in 1938, while also identifying the people who joined them at a dinner hosted by the director Rouben Mamoulian in Los Angeles—settling the matter of just where that dinner took place. The article is graced with a previously unknown photograph of the Prokofievs at the 1938 Academy Awards, courtesy of the Serge Prokofiev Estate.
Following a technical study of Prokofiev’s Akhmatova songs by Vera Gavrilova, the second half of the issue documents two recent world premiere events. In February at Princeton University, Prokofiev’s Eugene Onegin was performed with the text for which the music was intended: Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s surrealistic adaptation of Alexander Pushkin’s novel in verse. Prokofiev composed the music in 1936 as part of the commemoration of the centennial of Pushkin’s death, but it went unperformed owing to the prohibition of Krzhizhanovsky’s iconoclastic playscript. At Princeton, both the orchestral version of the music was performed and the piano reduction. It was to the latter that Krzhizhanovsky’s text was fitted, in a chamber staging directed by Tim Vasen. The performance, with a student cast, received extensive press coverage.
This past January in London and April in Moscow, Levon Atovmian’s scintillating oratorio arrangement of Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Vladimir Jurowski. The arrangement was uncovered by Nelly Kravetz, Associate Editor of Three Oranges, in 2008. Her description of her research and experience of the premiere is followed by four reviews of the London performance.