- Published on Amazon.com
Thus did the great Sergei Prokofiev describe his newly-born son Svyatoslav upon first seeing him in the hospital on Feb 27, 1924, the day the little guy was born.
Don't worry--next day, according to Prokofiev's diary entry "Svyatoslav looks a little more presentable and has lost his purplish tint. Generally he resembles me more than he does Ptashka" (Mrs. Prokofiev).
How amazing to realize that, some 60-70 years later, Svyatoslav would be primarily responsible for rescuing his papa's hand-written diaries from the State Archives in Moscow, painstakingly deciphering and transcribing them, and thus providing an endlessly fascinating window into Prokofiev's life-journey during his years of youth in late Tsarist Russia, his emigration and wandering in the West, and the ever-increasing conviction that the fulfillment of his life and work lay back in what had now become Stalin's totalitarian nightmare.
I'LL CUT TO THE CHASE--- I can't imagine another composer whose life and career could have possibly been as astonishing and compelling as that of Prokofiev. His diaries allow us to accompany him as it were, side-by-side, through this most thrilling and unbelievable period in the history of Western music and art. Add to it the fact that Prokofiev was a MARVELOUS writer---witty, vivid, insightful, observant, imaginative--so much so that I can't WAIT to read each entry, even though I must force myself to do so s-l-o-w-l-y, to savor every line, lest I finish the book too soon.
IT'S THAT GOOD.
Imagine accompanying Prokofiev on his journeys through Italy, across Russia into Japan, across the Atlantic to Hawaii (beautifully described), to San Francisco and onward to Chicago and New York. How did he survive in post-Revolutionary Petrograd? How did he manage to avoid military service and secure a passport out of Russia? How did he deal with Mary Garden and her Chicago Opera Company during the creation and premiere of "Love of Three Oranges"? (Vol 2) What were his feelings as he struggled with his dark, clamorous, "futuristic" Second Symphony for Koussevitsky...or the machinations which ultimately resulted in the commission to create a new "Soviet-style" ballet ("Le Pas d'acier") for Diaghilev in Paris? (Vol 3). ALL OF THESE issues and events--and many more--are now revealed and described in detail by the man who experienced them FIRST HAND.
Prokofiev seemed to know EVERYONE who was anyone during this time: composers, impresarios, agents, instrumentalists, actors, dancers, artists, writers, poets, philosophers, politicians, business tycoons, arts patrons, critics, historians, theologians...etc etc....and he records and describes his interaction with all of them in his own brilliant, deft and occasionally outrageous manner.
In addition to Prokofiev's own "capture" of this Golden Age of art in 20th-Century Europe, the copious annotations by English translator Anthony Phillips are a superbly researched treasure trove of information--ALSO immensely readable and enjoyable. You will be stunned by the amount of fascinating historical information and insight provided by Mr. Phillips' authoritative notes; someday soon, I will sit down at my computer and begin to explore many of the intriguing people and events which are described in his foot-notes---which are featured IN ADDITION to Prokofiev's own masterful record of his daily life which comprise these three volumes.
I certainly hope that the Prokofiev Diaries are selling well; they belong in the library of ANY serious devotee/student of music and history. The joy that they bring to the reader is second only to their importance as a chronicle of the world in which they were written. How unfortunate--tragic, really---that Prokofiev's record of his life would end in June of 1933, during the time of his final decision to return to the Soviet Union...and not without his observations of the ominous events in Munich that year.
The thrilling, intoxicating artistic heyday of post-WWI Paris was coming to an end, as was Prokofiev's own custom of recording his private yet very outspoken thoughts and opinions....an unwise practice in his soon-to-be home in Stalin's USSR.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. A real piece of history, and a page-turner to boot.
PS-- Interesting photo of Prokofiev on the cover of Volume 3; almost looks like a Soviet-style paste-up job---the legs look
too small and are out-of-line with the torso. Slightly bizarre.