Art in an artless place

Celebrating the anniversary of Prokofiev’s birth, and calling for the Soviet scores to be resurrected 

By SImon Morrison - July 22, 2016

The Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared 2016 to be the “Prokofiev Year” in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Let’s hope it proves better for Prokofiev’s legacy than did 2014, when the international airport named after him in Donetsk, Ukraine, was blown to smithereens in the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and the pro-Russian separatists of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Three letters of Prokofiev’s name were left visible in the rubble: “ROK,” which uncannily spells “fate” in Russian. The centennial of the composer’s birth in 1991 also had its troubles, being the year the Soviet Union collapsed, and this past fall, Russian television dramatized the perverse fact that Prokofiev died on the same day as Stalin: March 5, 1953. The television broadcast juxtaposed images of the mass weeping that accompanied Stalin’s death with descriptions of the desolation that took hold of musical life in Moscow after Prokofiev’s passing. 

Erika Barbee