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For the questionnaire of the Committee on Arts Affairs

26 October 1938

 

I was born on 23 April 1891 in the village of Sontsovka, Dnepropetrovsk Oblast, in the family of an agronomist. I began to play piano at the age of four; at five I began to compose music. I received my early musical education from my mother, later from Glier under Taneyev’s supervision. At the age of nine I wrote a children’s opera, The Giant, at eleven a symphony for orchestra and an opera on Pushkin’s Feast in a Time of Plague. At thirteen I enrolled at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in the course of theory of composition (studying with Lyadov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Vītols), which I completed in 1909. Concurrently, I was instructed in the piano (Prof. Yesipova) and took conducting courses (Prof. Cherepnin). On completion of my studies in 1914 I was awarded the Rubinstein Prize for piano. During the period of my conservatory studies I wrote the operas Undine and Maddalena, two concerti, a symphony, five sonatas and around a hundred piano pieces. A majority of these works were immature and remained unpublished. I made my first concert appearance at the age of sixteen. Upon completion of the conservatory I concertized as pianist and conductor and worked on an opera, a ballet, symphonic and other works, which were published in Moscow. With the authorization of the Soviet Government, in 1918 I departed for America and later Paris. The opera The Love for Three Oranges was written there (performed in Chicago, New York, Berlin, Cologne and elsewhere), as was the ballet Tale of the Buffoon after a folk epic of the Perm Oblast (it played in Paris, London, Monte Carlo, New York, Buenos Aires, etc.), the ballet The Steel Step on a Soviet theme (Paris, London, New York), the opera The Gambler (Brussels), etc. In addition, I concertized in all the major cities of Europe and North America. The reasons I was detained abroad longer than I should have been were my enthusiasm for productions and concerts, in part by family matters (the long illness and death of my mother; my marriage) and, most important, by insufficient appreciation of the significance of what had taken place in the Soviet Union. I did not severe ties with the USSR, as a result of which my opera The Love for Three Oranges played in Leningrad and Moscow, and the ballet Tale of the Buffoon in Kiev; symphonic works were performed by Persimfans (1) in Moscow and by the Philharmonic in Leningrad. In 1927, I returned to the USSR and gave fifteen concerts. Upon receipt of an apartment from Mossovet,(2) I relocated my family from abroad. In the recent past, for Soviet theaters I have written the ballet Romeo and Juliet, music for the Shakespeare plays Hamlet and Egyptian Nights, music for the films, Lieutenant Kizhe, The Queen of Spades, and Alexander Nevsky, two cantatas on Soviet themes, twenty-three Soviet songs*, tales and pieces for children, concerti for violin and cello, a Russian Overture, four military marches, and other works. I traveled to concertize in Europe and America. I am an honorary member of several musical societies in America, France and Belgium, and I am the honorary chairman of the Prokofieff Society at Dartmouth College (U.S.A.), whose function is the study and dissemination of my music.

*Four of these were awarded first and second prizes in competitions sponsored by Pravda and the Union of Composers and by Light Industry.

This year I completed an opera on a Soviet theme, after Katayev’s “I am a Son…” and Zdravitsa for chorus and orchestra in honor of I. V. Stalin’s 60th birthday. I was elected vice-chairman of the Moscow Union of Composers, I serve on committees.

[The version in red pencil in the original document was corrected on 14 December 1939.]


1 The acronym of the Perv´y Simfonicheskiy Ansambl’ bez Dirizhyora (First Conductorless Symphonic Ensemble). Ed.

2 The Moscow Council of Worker, Peasant, and Red Army Deputies—essentially City Hall. Ed.

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