Letter from Irina Medvedeva
To me, "Diary" seems to be a very "Russian" book, a book that is needed first of all in Russia. I heard many opinions on this subject, and not only those of musicians. This is not a one-time reading stuff, this book is so complex, it has so many different layers, it is so full of events, impressions, and names, that it will surely be interesting to a huge number of readers.
It is difficult to tear oneself away from "Diary". First of all, because the main heroes are Prokofiev himself and his music, the destiny of his compositions. Is this the only reason of the fascination inspired by this book? There are so many well-known people, their relationships, stories about the music milieu we all know and cherish, about the environment in which Prokofiev lived, events revealed by Prokofiev as an inside observer all this counts, too. However, this is not all. The attention of the reader is compelled by the very pulse and rhythm of life, by fascinating details that can seem insignificant at first sight and that come out of non-existence as it happens when one develops a negative: vague and blurred, they gradually come to surface and become clear, helping us to better feel the time's fragrance and spirit.
When one takes the two volumes of "Diary" in one's hands for the first time, one exclaims spontaneously "Wow! How heavy they are!" When one leafs through the book for the first time, one gets amazed by the sheer quantity of "literature-quality" material present - was all this really essential for the Prokofiev-composer? And if one thinks that, in addition, it was written during troubled times, when Prokofiev produced huge quantities of music, when he constantly moved from one place to another, went on tours, participated in rehearsals and shows, changed countries, cities, apartments... And on the top of that, he was writing all his letters, his "Autobiography" his novels - it becomes really unimaginable. Using Prokofiev's own words, "One gets giddy from all of this". But it is not only important what and how much he wrote, but how he wrote it. He has an amazing sense of style, and his language is rich and perfect. He developed a special style of narration in which tragic pages alternate with funny, ironic, or even caustic ones; and he can be caustic not just towards other people, but also towards himself. Prokofiev becomes merciless when he reflects on his own character: "And when I'm in doubt - Lord, how weak I become, how helpless, and how awful my solitude is! I need a friend on whose friendship I could lean, whom I could trust and love: give me someone to lean upon, and I'll bear anything you wish!" This is a quotation from a fragment relating the death of a friend - the tragic death of Max Schmithof. Such is the strength of this narration that one feels transported from the field of a diary, field of real characters, into that of high tragedy. And there is more than one such story in the book: it suffices to mention the story about Prokofiev's move from Russia to America, a series of New York "short stories" on the same subject, during a short span of time. There is also, in a way, an opposite phenomenon: long "horizontal" plots, in which the subject embraces long periods of time, but which form, as one reads "Diary", a sort of a dotted-line literary narration. In this regard, one can mention Rachmaninoff, Meyerhold, Diaghilev, Miaskovsky, and, last but not least, a sequence of charming woman-friends of Prokofiev.
The topic "Prokofiev and Sport" may seem completely insignificant - just a sideline. In fact, this is not true, as it forms an interesting story in itself. I noticed this topic by chance, when in documents concerning sport parades of 1935 and 1939 I encountered the sentence "Prokofiev was a gymnast, and not a bad one" which should have been commented. In the 1910-1914 pages of "Diary" I read about the daily life of the "Sokol" gymnast society, about the mother concerned with her son's health, about the classes ("I happily tortured myself on rings and gym-horse"), about the "Sokol" march ("I composed a march for them, very silly and stealthy, but awfully sharp and with a nice and simple melody. They liked it..."), about a plain-lookin "sokolka" (a "Sokol" girl) asking "brother Prokofiev" to come to classes earlier, in order to play the march to the members of the "Sokol" gymnast society, and about many other things. This, for me, was the beginning of a thread going to future Prokofiev's marches, both ceremonial and others.
When the February issue of "Russian Music Gazette" appeared, one musicologist exclaimed: "So much Prokofiev!" Well, there is never too much Prokofiev, - anyway, this is true now, as long as we know way too little about him.
The fact that "Diary" has been deciphered and published is valueless. Specialists in history, culture, and music will study it. Non-specialist readers will compare this book to Bulgakov's play "Flight". The epoch-making events coming to life on "Diary" pages can be compared to the canvas of Tolstoy's "War and Piece". The appearance of "Diary" made all of us spiritually richer. It is possible that not everyone realizes the amount of work spent on deciphering of the huge amount of text of "Diary". This work in itself constitutes an act of selfless devotion. Your work on this book allowed us to see a person of an utterly unthinkable and previously unknown universality.
Once more, please accept my deep gratitude - that of a reader, musicologist, and admirer of the artistic production of Serge Prokofiev, a composer and a writer.