†††††Advertised since January, the Association was officially launched in London's Royal Festival Hall on Thursday 10 May. A reception had been organised immediately after a concert with Valery Gergiev and the Philharmonia Orchestra. This subscription concert had been advertised as "Music inspired by Shakespeare" and included works by Mendelssohn, Rakhmaninov, Shostakovich and Prokofiev. To mark the launch of the Association, the Philharmonia, which had originally planned only a few extracts from "Romeo and Juliet", included the little-known Symphonic Suite from "Egyptian Nights". In a packed hall, the concert opened and closed with the sound of Prokofiev's music, which was enthusiastically received.
†††††After the concert, about 100 people joined the reception. The Association was well represented with many members, some of which had travelled from the USA, Ireland and Israel especially for the occasion. NoŽlle Mann, the Archive's Curator and Editor of "Three Oranges", gave a short speech, first offering apologies for the absence of two Board members: Sir Edward Downes, the Association's President, was rehearsing at Covent Garden and Leslie Howard, Chair, was on a concert tour in Italy. She then recalled Prokofiev's youngest son, Oleg, who would have been so excited and proud on this occasion, and also Lina Prokofiev, the force behind all the Prokofiev initiatives.
†††††Sviatoslav, the composer's elder son, stood shyly in the centre of the room and read his speech - "I am so excited that I'd better read" he declared with a huge smile. For the whole Prokofiev family standing around Sviatoslav, it was a day of very special significance as it was the first time the Foundation, the family, the Archive and the Association were under one roof. The atmosphere reflected the special nature of this event and the sense of occasion was palpable.
†††††Finally the hero of the day stood up and spoke at great length. Gergiev has a unique understanding of Prokofiev's music and he shared his insight with the guests. "There is so much to discover about this creative and versatile composer", he remarked, having declared that this was the first time he had conducted the "Egyptian nights" suite. Like so many other conductors, Gergiev had first become acquainted with Prokofiev through the great classics such as "Romeo and Juliet", "Cinderella" and the "Classical Symphony", but "Prokofiev is so much more than these famous pages" he emphasised. "The Fiery Angel" and "The Scythian Suite" in particular were the two works which opened up aspects of Prokofiev Gergiev had not previously suspected, inspiring him to invest more work and time in the composer's vast output. "The Kirov Ballet and Opera companies, the Kirov Orchestra have performed more Prokofiev than anyone else in the world and that it why it means so much to me to be the Association's Patron." The "Semyon Kotko" experience had been particularly telling, he recounted. There was only one very old recording of the opera, and it was so bad that every time he listened to it, he thought: "No, I shan't do it!" But then Richter told him one day that he should learn it because he thought Semyon was one of Prokofiev's best operas. "When a man like Richter says something like that, you listen to him!" The success of the 2000 production in London was overwhelming and it reinforced Gergiev's conviction that there is indeed still a lot to discover in Prokofiev's music.
†††Gergiev mentioned works he would like to bring to the West including "The Story of a Real Man", Prokofiev's last opera and the only one he has not yet tackled: "People say the recording is bad, so perhaps it's a good work" he said jokingly, "and I might do it in 2003!"
†††It was a treat to hear a performer of such stature and charisma talk for so long about his experiences with Prokofiev, with the music of the man he acknowledged as "one of the most exciting Russian composer of the first half of the twentieth Century."