Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Prokofiev: From Russia to the West, 1891-1931

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Prokofiev: From Russia to the West, 1891-1931

Article excerpt

Prokofiev: From Russia to the West, 1891-1931, by David Nice.

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, great arguments have broken out about virtually all of the important 20th-century Russian composers, arguments about how implicated they were (or not) in Stalinist politics and arguments about how much this should matter to the posthumous assessment of their work. Sergey Prokofiev is certainly no exception. David Nice's enormous new biography constitutes an attempt to wrestle one of the key protagonists in the story away from the political fights that have long tended to color both Western and Russian critics' reactions to the music he wrote in the two different contexts. The first volume of this painstakingly researched tome tells the story of Prokofiev's early years; it takes us from his childhood on a Ukranian country estate and his youth as a chess champion and conservatory student through the 17 years he spent abroad, in the U.S. and Western Europe, after 1918. In exile, Prokofiev wrote and performed some of his most celebrated compositions and rubbed elbows with many of the cultural icons of the moment, from Stravinsky and Diaghilev to Gloria Swanson. …

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