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SERGEI KOUSSEVITZKY by Victor Yuzefovich

Volume 2: The Paris Years

Chapter 6 - Koussevitzky and Prokofiev: 1924-1928

"Our publishers resemble an elderly Turk …' Strengthening bonds of friendship. A Symphony 'forged from iron and steel." From The Buffoon to Fiery Angel.
"Black and white, boiling and frozen, cruel and caressing; nothing between the extremes. […] I had the impression that the entire symphony is composed of two musical phrases. The first movement is one single sentence, the second another…."
~ Gennady Rozhdestvensky on the symphonies of Prokofiev[1]

If for the many years Koussevitzky and Stravinsky were in contact with one another the relationship remained for the most part on a business footing, with Prokofiev the conductor's collaboration grew into a true friendship. It does not follow, however, that it was always entirely friction-free: we shall have evidence of this more than once.

Prokofiev's obstinate character gave rise to considerable problems within the offices of Russian Musical Editions. Managing Director Ernest Oeberg, whose relationship with Stravinsky was one of friendship and trust, was clearly mistrustful of Prokofiev. It seemed to him that the composer made excessive demands, his the characteristic blend of sarcasm and irony damaging to Oeberg's self-esteem. 'He's a fine gentleman, but blunt in his manner and unwilling to admit his mistakes,' reported Oeberg to Natalie Koussevitzky.[2] And writing complainingly to Koussevitzky: 'I've had a letter from Prokofiev. He haggles over everything.'[3] Prokofiev obviously did not feel the same way, as he wrote to his friend Pyotr Suvchinsky: 'Oeberg has wider horizons than that fool Zingel, and we get on well….'[4]

It is certainly the case that Prokofiev argued endlessly about his fees, insisted on their being paid in dollars, and was tardy in returning proofs. Natalie wrote to her husband about Prokofiev in April 1924, to tell him that the long-running dispute with Oeberg was finally settled: 'Everything is in order and he has agreed all the points. It is much easier to talk to him now as he has stopped being quite so touchy.'[5]

Natalie attributed the 'softening' in Prokofiev's character to the birth of his son Sviatoslav.[6] Nevertheless, in one of the letters she regularly received from Oeberg less than six months later, written on November 14th 1924, she was faced with more complaints: 'He is driving me mad. I believe he will take six hundred years to send his proofs back, and the orchestra parts will never be done. Not only does he take forever to correct mistakes, he makes changes to the actual composition. … He still hasn't signed a contract yet still wants us to publish his new works. But I am going to insist that he signs the agreement, and until he does I will not have any new works printed.'[7]

Two weeks later, Oeberg informed Prokofiev that in the absence of a signed contract no further work would be done on publishing his compositions. The same day he so informed Koussevitzky.

The reasons for delay on the part of the composer were not only the intensiveness of his concert performing schedule, but the fact that he always made correcting proofs the occasion for a critical re-evaluation of the music in them. For example, preparing the Scythian Suite for the press in 1923, he confessed in an August 3rd letter from Ettal in Bavaria to Myaskovsky in Moscow that, alongside episodes with which he could still be satisfied, there were some whose scoring he now considered excessively crude. '… I felt this especially painfully during the long process of correcting the proofs, when I found bar after bar with identical accompaniment continuing for several pages.'[8]

By the same token, Prokofiev was dissatisfied and irritated by the production values of some of RME's publications of his music. He asked Pyotr Suvchinsky, who was living at the time in Berlin, to monitor the quality of each publication. In letter after letter he complained that the publishers 'have once again bound my works in dreadful covers',[9] that although he was obliged to approve the cover to the March and Scherzo from The Love for Three Oranges it was 'just as obnoxious as all its predecessors.' 'From your letter,' continued the composer, 'I deduce that you decided to tread delicately with that blockhead Zingel, as a result of which I am condemned to revolve everlastingly in my grave cursed by these hideous apologies for a cover.'[10] A year later, enclosing in a letter to Oeberg a copy of the cover to Five Poems of Konstantin Balmont, he writes: '… it is absolutely hideous. Seldom have I seen anything more monstrously ugly!'[11]

More than any of these failings, however, Prokofiev was disturbed by the slow pace of the publishers in relation to his output. He was like an anxious father watching over his compositions, jealously protecting any of them from being, as he put it, 'left on the shelf as an old maid.' Even so, he was well aware of the realities of the firm's situation, its lack of working capital. '… After all,' he wrote to Derzhanovsky in 1922, 'We have to forgive Gutheil. They are active everywhere, and publish me non-stop.'[12]

Nevertheless, as the pace of his own productivity increased, the more anguished became Prokofiev's protests against hold-ups in the publication of his music. Although both the publisher's catalogue and Koussevitzky's repertoire plans as a conductor included at any one time several of his works, he did not hesitate to voice his concerns to Oeberg and directly to Koussevitzky. 'Please remind the fire-breathing maestro,' he wrote to Natalie on July 31st 1922 from Ettal, 'that the gods will not take umbrage were he to vouchsafe me an engagement this winter.'[13] To Oeberg, writing the following spring on 26th April, he asks: 'Is the score of The Buffoon in process of being engraved? For God's sake do hurry up with the work this summer, otherwise by the autumn I shall have six new large works ready: 1) the full score of the Second Piano Concerto, 2) the piano reduction of this work, 3) the full score of the Suite from Fiery Angel, 4) the piano reduction of the Suite from the same, 5) the full score of the Suite from The Love For Three Oranges, 6) the Piano Sonata No. 5. When will all these works see the light of day? And how is my music to develop if three quarters of it is not in print? I am like a woman who has married a respectable though ailing publisher, who is no longer able to satisfy her natural desires!'[14]

Oeberg rose to the bait. '… I replied,' he informed Natalie twelve days later, 'that this publisher, far from being a ailing husband is a Mahommedan with many wives among whom, as is right and proper, he has favourites, but the problem is, the publisher depends on a printer and that printer has a host of other dependents. Prokofiev seems to think that we are not printing much of his work, but the truth is, Gutheil expends a huge proportion of its income on getting the works of this composer into print.'[15]

In April 1924 Prokofiev finally signed a contract with RME. Hitherto, as he confided to his diary, 'they have been publishing my works without a signed agreement.'[16] The new agreement did not put a stop to Prokofiev's complaints: on February 10th he wrote to Natalie: '… the publishers have completely stopped printing my music…. When I spoke to Oeberg about this, he told me he needs money to keep the shop going, and there is not a penny to print my works. … I still went to see Oeberg and stroked his bald patch lovingly, but came home again with nothing. I am asking you please to tell me: which of my compositions, and when, are to be published? Because your departure to America was the signal for a game of hide-and-seek to begin: I go to Oeberg – Oeberg puts the blame on you – I write to you – you play dumb. And I am left sitting on a pile of manuscripts trying to calculate how much it must weigh by now.'[17]

Now Prokofiev was becoming more aware that there was no love lost between himself and Oeberg. 'You'd better not write any more music, otherwise you will sink Mr. Gutheil's boat altogether,' read the composer in a letter from the RME Director, to which he replied by return: 'Your phrase "You'd better not write any more music" should be noted for the edification of posterity, as a typical example of the relationship between spider-publishers and their authors.'[18] Writing to Natalie in October he joked: '… I expect he will soon put something in Stravinsky's and my drink so that we stop composing, otherwise the publishers will collapse under the weight of manuscripts.'[19] Reverting to the theme of his earlier letter to Oeberg, he complained to Koussevitzky the following month: 'The upshot is that our publishing house resembles an elderly Turk who, having saddled himself with two strapping wives, then proceeds to spit on them.'[20]

However, Prokofiev had no desire to leave RME. When, in 1920, Stravinsky suggested to him that he might be published by Chester, or when in the middle of the decade Universal Edition in Vienna tried to tempt him away, he was not interested. 'The Gutheilers have opened branches in Paris, Brussels and London, and are getting underway in Spain and New York, so their spread is growing well,' he wrote to Myaskovsky in January 1923.[21] 'The conditions under which I work with them are as follows: on publication I receive nothing; once the engraving costs are covered I thereafter receive 50% of sales. The copies carry a printed statement: "propriété de l'auteur et de l'editeur"'.[22]

No more was Prokofiev attracted by the several offers he received from Soviet Russia to have his works published there. It was not only that he found it, as he wrote to Myaskovsky in June 1924, 'ridiculous to take bread from the mouths of Moscow composers waiting their turn', but he appreciated how vital it was for his compositions to be published in the West.

Only once, in 1933, was he tempted by a proposal from Myaskovsky to publish in Russia his (Myaskovsky's) transcription, in collaboration with Vissarion Shebalin, of the Third Symphony, and Prokofiev's own transcription of Schubert Waltzes. Prokofiev was interested to know the reaction of the then Managing Director of RME, Gavriil Paichadze, to the proposal, but, as he informed Myaskovsky, 'he looked bleak, because he believes it is wrong to split a work between two publishers.'[23] The composer then suggested that the transcriptions should be engraved in Moscow and paid for out of the roubles he had left deposited in Russia from his earnings with Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga. But none of this happened: the transcription of the Third Symphony went unpublished. 'It's much easier to deal with a printer than with a progressive music publisher,' lamented Myaskovsky, writing back to Prokofiev in August 1933.[24]

Generally speaking, relations between Prokofiev and RME ran considerably more smoothly after the arrival of Gavriil Paichadze to take over the management of the firm on Oeberg's sudden death. Friendly relations having been established, the composer took to dropping in to the publishing office, although not usually spending long there. 'Prokofiev is very delicate in this regard,' Paichadze wrote to Natalie. 'He doesn't come into the office very often, only on business, we discuss what is on his mind, and he leaves. He is probably the only person who understands that I have a lot to do ….'[25]

*****

In Paris, Prokofiev often attended Koussevitzky's rehearsals and concerts – and not only on those occasions when his works were on the programme. One such occasion was the premiere of Stravinsky's Piano Concerto, in 1924. The Koussevitzkys likewise tried not to miss any of Prokofiev's performances. 'Just in case, I am sending you complimentary tickets for my concert tomorrow,' he wrote to Natalie on May 11th 1924. 'But if you and the maestro are tired and have had enough of rehearsals and performances, please don't feel you are obliged to come. I know you don't need that. Nevertheless, if you happen to have the inclination to look in at this concert, I would be terribly glad of your presence.'[26]

Prokofiev and Koussevitzky went together to the Diaghilev company's premiere of Stravinsky's Apollon musagète. Prokofiev was a frequent guest in the conductor's home, both at receptions and on private domestic occasions, and they often met in the homes of other musicians as well. Whenever they were together, their conversations, in which they swiftly moved to the intimate second person singular, would oscillate between the cultural scene in Paris and family news. There was also time for joint excursions to the circus – 'lion-tamers and a man being shot from the mouth of a cannon.'[27] Koussevitzky spent time one day going round shops in Paris with Prokofiev, in search of a fashionable overcoat for him.

The musicians' wives also made friends. In one December 1926 letter to her friend Natalie, Lina Prokofiev confided that '…Seryozha is learning to drive a car, in the same school where Stravinsky had lessons, and is due to take his test in a few days. We've been teasing him that he is bound to fail ….'[28] In another letter she enclosed snapshots of her first-born son Sviatoslav.

Natalie sometimes issued invitations to the Prokofievs when her husband was away. 'Prokofievs came in the evening,' she wrote to him in 1923, 'and we sat very long afterwards, it is now well after midnight. … We talked a lot about publishing matters.'[29] Among other bonds linking Natalie and Prokofiev was their shared liking for the game of patience. In one (undated) letter to her he laid out the details of a rare form of the game, garnishing it with the comment that 'it is an excellent method of softening the mood of angry people.'[30]

When the editor of the French journal Chanticleer asked Prokofiev to write an article commemorating the tenth anniversary of Debussy's death, he resorted to the story Natalie had related to him of the time the composer had spent living in the Koussevitzkys' Moscow home in 1913 (an episode recounted in the first volume of the present book.)

In July 1923, when Prokofiev was living in the small German town of Ettal, the Koussevitzkys were regaled with the vicissitudes of the 'Ettal Poultry Farm'. '… I have bought an electric incubator to house 60 persons, who have now been sitting for 14 days. Numbered among its inhabitants are Plymouth Rocks from the local monastery's chicken farm, Minorcas from Oberammergau, and lastly 22 eggs fathered by our very own cockerel, who wanders about our garden with his eight ladies. We are terribly proud of our hundred percent cockerel and held a general meeting to confer eternal life upon him plus a pound of oats.'[31]

The correspondence between the Prokofiev and the Koussevitzkys testifies to the warmth that existed between them. 'I kiss the maestro's plump cheek,' wrote the composer to Natalie from Ettal in 1922.[32] Suffering himself from heart problems in 1925, Prokofiev was concerned for Koussevitzky's health. In another letter, this time from Warsaw in January 1925: 'How is the maestro feeling, exhausted by the plasticity of his gestures and the laurel wreaths continually adorning his brow? Where are you at the moment, and where do you plan to spend the summer: cooling off on a mountain-top, or baking in the sunshine in the south of the map of Europe, or soaking on the beach at some watering-hole? […] I embrace the tenderly gesturing maestro.'[33]

In the spring of 1924 Koussevitzky inveigled Prokofiev into his polemic with the critic Boris de Schloezer. In an article on the subject of Russian critics entitled 'On Musical Criticism', which Koussevitzky had published in an émigré Paris newspaper, Koussevitzky singled out for praise Vyacheslav Karatygin but failed to mention Boris Schloezer at all.[34] Schloezer had great respect for Koussevitzky, but had previously publicly criticized his conducting abilities as too limited for his interpretations to encompass the full elemental gamut of tragedy and contemplation[35]. As soon as he read Koussevitzky's article, Schloezer erupted in a sarcastic rebuttal which inferred unequivocally that Koussevitzky's judgment had been tainted by personal considerations, and that Karatygin was by certainly not the only critic in Russia worthy of the name.

Koussevitzky was beside himself with rage. Drafting his reply to Schloezer, he insisted that Karatygin '… is one of the tiny handful of genuine critics writing in the press today,' and, although sharing Schloezer's positive opinion of Leonid Sabaneyev, Alexander Ossovsky and Andrei Rimsky-Korsakov, he considered that '… such individuals constitute less than two per cent of the mass of ignorant and stupid people in whose hands musical criticism has resided and resides to this day.'[36]

Prokofiev's involvement was, in his own words, instigated by Koussevitzky '… so that I could add some venomous elements to the article.' He felt himself in an ambivalent position. As far back as 1906 Karatygin had been one of the first in St. Petersburg to offer Prokofiev active support, devoting no less than 13 articles to him. 'Bravo, Karatygin!' wrote Prokofiev in his diary in 1914. 'I am in no doubt that given time my classic status will be beyond contention, but to have this said about me just now is very useful in opening the door to America.'[37] Schloezer, in turn, had on several occasions written glowing reports on Prokofiev's music, notably the Fifth Piano Sonata and the Second Piano Concerto. 'Naturally I am on Koussevitzky's side in this polemic,' added Prokofiev, 'although I cannot wholly share Koussevitzky's determination to see in Schloezer nothing but an infinitely malignant excrescence.'[38] In her next letter, Natalie informed her husband that the editor of Latest News, Pavel Milyukov, had promised to find space in his newspaper for Koussevitzky's reply.[39] It has not, however, been possible to establish whether or not it was actually published.

In the autumn of 1926 the Prokofievs, coming back to Paris, stayed repeatedly in the Koussevitzky home for several days at a time while they were looking for an apartment for themselves. Prokofiev wrote to Koussevitzky on 26th November: 'Ksyusha [the Koussevitzkys' cook] looked after us most attentively and even after we were settled in an hotel we sometimes deposited Sviatoslav with her, until one day he bumped his nose and Ksyusha, alarmed, declined any further responsibility.'[40]

At the end of August and the beginning of September 1927, Gavriil Paichadze came to stay with the Prokofievs in the house they had rented for the summer in St. Palais-sur-mer near Royan. In his youth he had been a keen sportsman, competing in rowing contexts, and fifteen years later he still kept his youthful athletic figure. He told Prokofiev about the walking tour he had undertaken with Koussevitzky during the summer in the mountains near Combloux, an expedition which had not been without its adventures: hopelessly lost, they narrowly avoided getting stuck in a bog. Prokofiev was undeterred. In June 1928 he appended a note to one of Lina Prokofiev's letters to Natalie Koussevitzky: 'Ptashka's husband [Ptashka – little bird – was his pet name for his wife] kisses your little hands and desires to know from the master when we should make preparations for our journey over the ice.'[41]

Prokofiev's, Paichadze's and Koussevitzky's five-day expedition was undertaken in August 1928. They climbed high into the mountains, overnighted in small villages – once in a haystack, and savoured the beauties of nature and the incomparable freshness of the air. Koussevitzky wrote to his wife on August 11th that the only reason for departing from the previously planned route was '… an insufficiency of replenishment points for the inner man, and comfortable places to spend the night.'[42] But he was dissembling. Prokofiev's diary for the previous day tells a different story: 'We left again at six, Koussevitkzy not feeling very well. We walked slowly…. Koussevitzky went back. … Paichadze and I continued to the summit…. Koussevitzky barely made it back to the chalet, and I was not in the best of shape either. We rested for a while, by four o'clock everyone was feeling better and we set off to walk down to St. Nicolas.'[43]

Koussevitzky and Prokofiev relished being incognito, although they did not always succeed. In one picturesque village the two celebrity travellers were unexpectedly recognised by a group of young Polish musicians who were holidaying in the vicinity, and gave them a hearty send-off as they proceeded on their way.

Back after the trip in the Haute Savoie holiday house they had rented, the Château de Vétraz, the composer again appended a note to Lina's letter: 'Thanks from the sub-master to the master for a marvellous walk.'[44]

The trip also strengthened the friendship between Prokofiev and Paichadze. In October 1930, at the Prokofievs' dacha near Paris, they went together on mushroom-picking expeditions and made amateur ciné films in which Paichadze impersonated a Hindu in a turban, their mutual friend Boris Samoilenko a criminal, and Prokofiev a detective.

A little later that year, in September, Boris Asafiev and Pavel Lamm came, respectively from Leningrad and Moscow, to Paris. Asafiev was bound for the Salzburg Festival. '… We often, in conversation with Boris Asafiev who is staying with us for a week, speak of you and Sergei Alexandrovich,' wrote Lina to Natalie from the Château de Vétraz.[45] Two weeks later they were all in Lugano, where the friends despatched a joint postcard to Koussevitzky. 'We're driving round Switzerland and send you our best greetings,' wrote Prokofiev. 'Very sorry I could not see you, I had visa problems,' added Lamm. 'I second the disappointment, I had so much hoped to see you,' wrote Asafiev. 'Just imagine, I am here too' was the final note from Lina.[46] In a subsequent letter to Natalie, Prokofiev returned to an account of the Swiss expedition and told her that 'Asafiev did not have a visa, so had to be taken across the border in the middle of the night on a motorcycle.'[47]

The preternaturally punctilious Prokofiev did not always receive a speedy response to his letters. 'Please forgive me for boring you with letters about my American concerts,' he wrote to Natalie Koussevitzky, 'but having embarked on the information I feel I have to continue with the details. Seeing, however, that you do not reply to my letters, I suppose you don't have to read them either.'[48]

*****

The Koussevitzky Concerts in Paris continued until 1928, and music by Prokofiev was heard in all four of the last seasons. Above all, the interest of musical Paris was aroused by the world premieres of the Second Symphony and a concert performance of the second act of the opera The Fiery Angel.

From 1925 onwards, Koussevitzky kept his seasons of concerts in Paris going alongside his new position of Musical Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Although his assumption of the post in October 1924 will be described later in this book, it will be necessary from time to time before that point to refer to events in Boston, since Koussevitzky's programmes on both sides of the ocean were often very similar.

' … In the evening I called on Koussevitzky to tell him about my notion to compose a symphony,' noted Prokofiev on June 12th 1924. 'He approved wholeheartedly of the intention and said that the moment it was written he would perform it in America and Paris. He advised me to be sure to make one of the movements a theme and variations, and this appealed to me.'[49]

Koussevitzky was flattered that Prokofiev was minded to dedicate his new score to him. The composer kept him regularly up to date with work in progress on the symphony, writing in September that the music of the first movement had '… come out rather severe,' and that in the second movement ' … I have sketched five of the variations, but probably I shall not restrict myself to two movements and shall have to compose a finale.'[50] A month later he wrote to Natalie that ' … after all I have made the symphony in two movements, but brought in a theme from the first movement to the development of the final variations in the second movement, which will serve as the conclusion of the work.'[51]

Koussevitzky was kept abreast, too, of how long the symphony was taking to compose. 'I work every morning on your symphony,' (my emphasis – V. Y.) wrote Prokofiev in November 1924, 'but progress is fairly slow, first because it is a complex construction, and secondly I don't want to bungle it, but to make every moment good.'[52] He asked Koussevitzky to send him books from America on the subject of the technique of playing wind instruments, a request with which the conductor complied.

'I am orchestrating the symphony, but the score is crawling along very slowly,' read Koussevitzky in a letter from the composer at the beginning of 1925. 'This is not because I'm not spending the time on it, on the contrary I am at it every morning, but because each page of score is crammed full from top to bottom, and very variegated at that.'[53]

Prokofiev's reference to 'your symphony' contains a specific meaning. Koussevitzky, wanting to give the first performance in Boston, had tried to persuade the composer to make the dedication not to him personally but to the Boston orchestra. 'Thanks for the pragmatic recommendation to dedicate the symphony to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its chef,' replied Prokofiev, 'but it seems to me that a composer offering a dedication for career reasons is as clumsy a gesture as a woman giving herself to further her own ambitions. I am fully conscious that to do so would greatly benefit my career in America, but it is for you that I have written the work, and to dedicate it as you propose does not conform to my heart's desire! Needless to say, I am not opposed to a little coquettishness, and I should be delighted if you would take the opportunity of letting the Boston orchestra know that I have composed the symphony with the intention that they should be the first to perform it, and there is no other orchestra in my thoughts as I orchestrate it; I have their sound and no one else's in my mind, because I take delight in every one of the players, from the tam-tam player to the second bassoon; I adore Boston, and their hall, and their music stands, and even the spittle that drains from their trombones. But with all this love, still dearer to me is their chef. And it is to him, and not to some great collective, however eminent, that I wish to dedicate this symphony.'[54]

Several years later Prokofiev would dedicate a symphony, his Fourth, to the Boston Symphony, but as we shall see there was a particular reason for this.

As it turned out, however, the new symphony was not ready for the planned Boston premiere during the 1924-25 season. It was decided to give the first performance in Paris, and it was in that city that Koussevitzky had his first sight of the score. On May 17th 1925 the composer played it through to him on the piano, as his diary tells us 'very roughly and cursorily.'[55] Musically Koussevitzky accepted it without demur, even though his impression was that it would be so difficult to perform that his first thought was not to perform it at all that season but to delay it until the following season in Boston. Prokofiev, however, desperately anxious to present himself to the French public with a new work, held out for Paris.

Koussevitzky agreed, and even managed to arrange two extra rehearsals with the orchestra. 'Hurrah!' exclaimed Prokofiev. 'The Symphony will go ahead. There will be four extra double basses, making fourteen in all. To Koussevitzky I enlarged on the difference between a work dedicated subsequently and a work "written for"'.[56] Probably he was referring to the special attention he had given, in the development of the symphony's first movement, to the double basses. This was, as the Prokofiev biographer and scholar David Nice, points out, '… the first of Prokofiev's several homages to Koussevitzky the double-bass player.'[57] Another, later, example would be the famous bass solo in the song "The Little Grey Dove Moans" in the second movement of the Suite from Lieutenant Kijé.

On May 31st Koussevitzky listened to the symphony again played by the composer. Rehearsals began the following day. 'The orchestra read the notes not too badly and generally behaved fairly decently to the music and to me. At Koussevitzky's request I started off the rehearsal, while he sat with the score to acquaint himself with it,' noted the composer after the first rehearsal. One day was devoted exclusively to the strings, another to the wind, and on each occasion Koussevitzky yielded his place on the podium to the composer for the first half of the rehearsal. Both of them had doubts about some of the tempi. Another problem was that the initial rehearsals took place in the foyer of the Grand Opéra, which had a deplorable acoustic additionally fraying to the composer's nerves. 'I shall not rush to embark on another piece as dense and unwieldy as this one.'[58]

The premiere of the Second Symphony took place on 6th June 1925 at the Grand Opéra. Present to hear it were – besides Vladimir Dukelsky, Nikolai Obokhuv and Pyotr Suvchinsky – Igor Stravinsky, Nikolai Tcherepnin, Walter Nouvel, Alexander Benois, Alexander Grechaninov, and Maximilian Steinberg, who was making a short visit to Paris at the time. Conductors who were there included Emil Cooper, Albert Coates and Grzegorz Fitelberg. The occasion brought little joy to Prokofiev. '… When I heard it, until everything calmed down I could not myself decide what kind of thing I had brought forth,' he confessed to Myaskovsky on August 4th. 'Indeed the reaction from everyone who heard the symphony was one of puzzlement: so clever had I been that even I could not fathom what I was driving at.'[59]

Myaskovsky replied by return, opining with some justification that the new score '… has a conceptual reach … clearly much greater than those aspects of your gifts the public knows and loves.'[60] Writing again later, in November, he suggests that the public was probably put off by the symphony's '… exceptionally severe general tone.'[61]

One way or another, therefore, as Myaskovsky had surmised, Paris rejected the symphony. It was not appreciated '… either by French taste or by French stomachs'.[62] Much later, in the 'Short' Autobiography, Prokofiev recalled: 'This was perhaps the only occasion when I felt the first stirrings of the thought that I might be confined to the ranks of the second-rate.'[63] At the time, though, writing to Myaskovsky soon after the premiere, he had this to say: 'All the same, in the depths of my soul there lurks the hope that in years to come the symphony will be seen as overall a good, and even elegant work.'[64]

In fact, there were people present at the premiere who had faith immediately in this symphony 'wrought from steel and iron.' Walter Nouvel, for instance, heard it and straight away recommended to Diaghilev that he commission a new ballet from Prokofiev – an idea that eventually resulted in the creation of The Steel Step (Le pas d'acier, in Russian Stal'noi Skok). 'That the symphony is severe,' wrote Pyotr Suvchinsky in October to Prokofiev, as if to counter Myaskovsky, 'is for me a matter for rejoicing. The French have been too much addicted to pleasure and have grown soft. Severity is precisely what is needed now, steel and grey—enough of indulgence and surges of feeling. What is needed is truth.'[65]

Koussevitzky also had faith in the score, even though that faith was not necessarily certain to lead to success in performance. 'Among other things I am by no means convinced that Koussya was up to the job,' wrote Myaskovsky in his reply to Prokofiev's letter.[66] Myaskovsky had long been sceptical of Koussevitzky the conductor, having been critical of his efforts as long ago as the 1910s in Russia. And in his later, November letter, by which time Prokofiev had sent him the principal themes of the symphony, he returned to the attack: ' … I am very doubtful of the soundness of the performance. This is not a symphony that Koussevitzky could possibly perform well.'[67]

Almost a year later, thinking back to Koussevitzky's rehearsals, Prokofiev himself noted in his diary: 'Koussevitzky made a great show of authority and grand gestures but did not actually know the score, consequently the general outline was not too bad but the details were a shambles.'[68] Writing around the same time to Boris Asafiev, he complains: '… it has not yet received a proper performance.' And a year after that, in an interview with a theatre journal on his return to Russia, he repeats: '… The Second Symphony […] has yet to receive a good performance.'[69]

What was it that, for a musical practitioner so skilled in the music of Prokofiev as Koussevitzky, so unexpectedly went wrong with the Second Symphony? There are several reasons. We must assume that the primary cause lies in the fact that Koussevitzky, bringing the symphony to the concert platform so soon after its composition, did not have enough time thoroughly to assimilate the score's unfamiliar style. Like the ballet Le pas d'acier, which still lay in the future, the Second Symphony remained for the conductor an embodiment of Prokofiev's tensely overwrought urbanism, and appeared to him an uneven composition. He liked the variations of the second movement, also the main and concluding sections of the first movement, but could not understand the second subject at all. 'Kuskin suggested "as a friend" that I should eliminate it from the symphony altogether,' Prokofiev told Myaskovsky in December.[70]

The symphony disappeared from Koussevitzky's programmes. Prokofiev himself did not think it advisable for it to be performed in Boston. When in 1926 Walter Damrosch in New York requested a new work from the composer, his first thought was to offer him the Second Symphony. On reflection, however: 'But then I took fright: Damrosch would certainly wreck it, and in any case it was too soon to offer such a morsel to America; it would be suicidal.'[71]

One can only guess at the reasons for the absence, one might almost say concealment, of Prokofiev's Second Symphony from the discography of Koussevitzky and other conductors. The key to understanding this music and, in part, its lack of success for Koussevitzky, may be found in the exegesis – in his performances and in words – it drew from the conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Many years later it fell to him to rescue the work from oblivion.

When after a considerable period of estrangement he came to know Prokofiev's Second Symphony intimately, Rozhdestvensky discerned in it, and was able to reveal, a symbiotic relationship between urbanisation and the 'world of evil' of Russian fairy tales. 'Black and white, boiling and frozen, cruel and caressing; nothing between the extremes,' he wrote about this music.[72] Listening to this conductor's recording of the symphony,[73] one can identify that very 'sense of a vanished time' that he experienced on first acquaintance with the score. 'It seems to me the entire symphony is composed of two musical phrases. The first movement is one single sentence, the second another.'[74]

Rozhdestvensky's approach underlines the ultimately monolithic nature of the first movement through the emotional correspondence of the main and second subjects. The main theme is an earthly sphere aflame with all the evil spirits of the world, as if drawn into an infernal dance: serpents, toads, Kikimori, hideous faces, skeletons, hundreds of witches each more frightening than Baba-Yaga, thousands of Kashcheis.[75] The second subject is no more ingratiating, although as if seen from a remote distance, from a flying carpet high aloft. The symphony achieves contrast on a more expansive scale, in which the conductor sets as his opposite poles the truly apocalyptic storm that engulfs the whole of the first movement, and the haughty lyricism, irresistible in its measured pace, of the second movement.

One may surmise that the first movement's second subject failed to convince Koussevitzky because of his attempts make it contrast with the main subject. This is undoubtedly how the French conductor Charles Bruck sees it in his recording of the Second Symphony.[76]

The success, or lack of it, Prokofiev's works enjoyed when performed by Koussevitzky or other conductors had no effect on their chances of publication with RME. Such was Koussevitzky's policy in his role of publisher. Even when he did not care for Prokofiev's new works they were invariably included in the publisher's plans.

Despite this, publication of the Second Symphony was delayed. Initially, Paichadze was dubious. In letters to Koussevitzky he complained that the symphony's music, like other recent works such as Fiery Angel and The Gambler[77], was so inaccessible and complicated to prepare for performance that it would prove very costly to the publisher. 'This is one daughter it will be hard to marry off,' he wrote from Danzig to Koussevitzky in November 1929. 'All her suitors run away, protesting at her difficult character. I believe we must have offered her to all the conductors here; they paw all over her but no one wants to take her on.'[78]

At first Koussevitzky planned to print only the full score and have the orchestral parts copied by hand pending enquiries from orchestras and conductors. 'Will Sergei Alexandrovich play it in America?' Prokofiev had asked Natalie Koussevitzky in November 1927. 'I ask this not in order to hound him, but to work out a plan for how we deal with the problem of still having only one copy of the manuscript orchestral parts.'[79]

In the end it was decided to print both the full score and the orchestral parts. Despite the composer's long delay correcting the proofs, overburdened as he was with the re-composition of The Gambler, the printed score and parts appeared at the end of 1928. Paichadze sent them immediately to Koussevitzky, and followed up by persuading the conductor to include the work in his repertoire next year. When Leopold Stokowski also expressed interest, Koussevitzky suggested to him that they give separate Uraufführungen on the same day in Philadelphia and Boston. Negotiations between the two conductors dragged on for a year, but in the end only Stokowski performed it. Koussevitzky's own copy of the score bears not a single conductor's marking. Prokofiev's Second Symphony would not be heard in Boston until March 15th 1968 when it was conducted by Erich Leinsdorf, who two years earlier (on February 4th 1966) had directed the Boston Symphony in the premiere of Prokofiev's Third Symphony.

In 1926 Koussevitzky turned his attention to the Suite from Prokofiev's ballet The Tale of the Buffoon (June 3rd 1926 in the Grand Opéra; October 8th and 9th in Boston; November 27th in New York). Although Prokofiev complained that only four numbers of the Suite were performed, he seems to have forgotten that the selection of the numbers for these performances was agreed by himself in collaboration with Koussevitzky. In rehearsal, as he said ' … the tempi were a little on the slow side, but everything was clear,' while at the concert performance '…The Suite from Chout was very well played, and was a great success.'[80] The advertisement in the Boston Evening Transcript on October 7th 1926 for the new Prokofiev premiere on October 27th included a Mikhail Larionov sketch for the 1921 Diaghilev production.

As early as 1922 Gutheil issued the composer's piano transcription of the Buffoon ballet score. '… Now that prices in Germany have risen so high,' Prokofiev wrote to Myaskovsky from Ettal soon afterwards, 'Koussevitzky has chosen this moment to discontinue printing. The orchestral score and parts of the Suite from Chout exist in an edition of only a few hire copies, there are no plans for a miniature score edition, and engraving of the Classical Symphony has been altogether postponed.'[81] The composer's full score and piano transcription of the Suite were issued only in 1924.

A year after The Buffoon, Koussevitzky presented another new Prokofiev composition to Parisians: the Overture for Chamber Ensemble, Op. 42, which he premiered on May 28th 1927. Performed at the start of the programme, it took on the nature of an idiosyncratic 'Festival fanfare'.[82] But in the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, whither the Koussevitzky Concerts had decamped from the Grand Opéra, the music, described by the composer himself as 'American', failed to achieve the desired sonority. This splendid theatre, which had from day of its opening in 1913 played host to Diaghilev's Ballets Russes productions, where the scandalous premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring had taken place, and which during the 1920s had enjoyed seasons by the Moscow Art Theatre and the Vienna Opera, proved to be quite unsuitable for Prokofiev's Overture, written as it was for 17 musicians. It had been the same story at the work's premiere the previous February, in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire, when it was performed by artists of the conductorless Persimfans orchestra. 'It must be remembered that the Overture was designed for the Aeolian Hall in New York, which seats 250 people, and inevitably in a hall with ten times the capacity it can sound a little poverty-stricken,' Prokofiev wrote on the day of the Russian premiere.[83] In Paris, however, the composer emphasised that '… Koussevitzky played my Overture better than it had been played in the USSR, and it had a greater success, both with the public and the press.'[84]

Once again, as had frequently been the case in the past, Koussevitzky's conducting and publishing interests were closely intertwined. Even before performing the Overture he had advised Prokofiev to consider transcribing it for full symphony orchestra, and the Paris performance convinced the composer to follow this advice. By 1930, when the question arose of RME's publishing the work, Koussevitzky chose the second, enlarged version, Op. 42A.

Koussevitzky first heard Prokofiev's ballet Le pas d'acier (The Steel Step) on May 13th 1926. Prokofiev played it through in Koussevitzky's home to the host and a visitor to Paris, Boleslav Yavorsky, along with the recently composed Fifth Piano Sonata. The conductor attended the premiere by the Diaghilev company on June 7th 1927, when also in the audience were Paichadze, Stravinsky, Suvchinsky and Dukelsky.

At the same time Prokofiev put together a four-movement Suite from the ballet. Koussevitzky did not plan a Paris performance, and the world premiere took place under his baton in Boston on October 21st and 22nd 1927. As had happened with the Second Symphony, these two performances were the only ones he gave. 'Can it really be the case that Americans cannot fathom music written in C major, and were they not able to grasp even one melody?' asked a puzzled Prokofiev the following month.[85]

The problem, however, lay not with the American public but with Koussevitzky. He never warmed either to the ballet's diatonic, 'white-key' music, or to its 'Bolshevik' subject – 'White music for a Red ballet,' as Prokofiev had put it to Diaghilev in August 1925, early in the composition process.[86] Nor did he like Prokofiev's choice of music to include in the Suite. 'Le pas d'acier has not been successful and never will be in the form Prokofiev has chosen for it,' he wrote to Paichadze in late 1927. 'The last four numbers of his selection kill one another. They work very well on the stage, but are absolutely wrong for the concert platform. … I looked at other numbers and came up with a choice that will offer more contrasts than those chosen by S.S. Naturally I will repeat Pas d'acier in New York, but this time will create my own, quite different, suite.'[87] Paichadze, however, figuring that the conductor was not after all likely to return to this score, asked for it to be sent back to him at the publishers since interest in it was being expressed in Moscow. The five-movement Four Portraits and Dénouement from The Gambler was likewise offered by Koussevitzky to the American public only once, on November 4th and 5th 1932 in Boston.

*****

In November 1924 Prokofiev brought Koussevitzky up to date on the progress of work on two other opera-based Suites, those from The Love for Three Oranges and The Fiery Angel, emphasising that he attached greater importance to the latter. The following spring Natalie Koussevitzky put forward the possibility of a concert performance of excerpts from Fiery Angel, a notion to which the composer was initially opposed. He still hoped for a stage realisation of the opera.

The previous year, Jacques Hébertot had instigated a project to produce Fiery Angel for the stage. The entrepreneur had been in charge of the Théâtre des Champs Elysées since 1920, and was keen that Koussevitzky should move his concert season from the Grand Opéra to his theatre. When it emerged that Hébertot lacked the financial wherewithal to advance the ten thousand francs Prokofiev needed to complete his work on the score of Fiery Angel, Koussevitzky offered to provide the sum. Prokofiev regarded this as a gesture of true friendship, but the planned production did not materialise.[88]

Bruno Walter also intended to mount a production at the Berlin Staatsoper in the 1926-27 season. However, despairing by the fall of 1927 of receiving the score of the opera – which RME had not printed – he removed it from the theatre's repertoire.[89] It was at that point that Prokofiev decided to ask Koussevitzky, via Natalie, to include either the second act of Angel, or a selection of excerpts from The Gambler, in his Paris programmes for 1928.[90] 'Thank God, I have finished The Gambler and am very pleased with my revision, which in truth amounts to a re-composition,' he wrote to Koussevitzky on March 19th 1928.[91]

Now it was Koussevitzky's turn to haver. 'As for Prokofiev's works,' he wrote to Zederbaum on April 10th, 'I am not going to perform any operatic excerpts. Even if he does create a score for a concert performance I do not wish to perform it. My goal is to perform new works which other organizations will take up later, but it is not worth playing music once which is never going to be played anywhere else.'

In the end, however, it was decided to programme Act II of Fiery Angel omitting the scene with Jakob Glok and the spiritual séance. Rehearsals went well from the start. Koussevitzky sensed the long-breathed breadth of the music, which Prokofiev himself described as 'written in broad lines'.[92]

At the composer's suggestion the role of Renata was offered to Nina Koshetz, who had been the first interpreter of his Five Songs Without Words, Op. 35, and who had had sung Fata Morgana in the Chicago Opera premiere of The Love for Three Oranges. Koshetz, upset that Koussevitzky had never engaged her to sing in his Paris concerts, had written to him in January 1927 to ask if he was offended at her turning down participation in the premiere of Nikolai Obukhov's Le livre de vie under his direction? Koshetz was at this time in superlative voice, appearing in seven concert performances by Paris's Russian opera troupe in what she herself described as 'her favourite roles': Yaroslavna in Borodin's Prince Igor and the Sea-Tsarevna in Rimsky-Korsakov's Sadko. 'I dream passionately of singing with you,' she wrote soon after signing the contract for a tour of the USA. 'After all, you have always been exceptionally fond of me and admired my singing, so I feel I can approach you without embarrassment to ask you to help me in America.'[93]

Koussevitzky replied that he would be happy for her to join him on the concert platform. Her Paris appearance in The Fiery Angel was preceded by her engagement in Boston, where on February 10th and 11th 1928 she was the soprano soloist in Florent Schmitt's Psalm XLVII and also, at her own request, sang Yaroslavna's Lament from Prince Igor, with the orchestra conducted by Koussevitzky.

The Paris premiere of excerpts from The Fiery Angel took place on June 14th 1928 in the Elysées Theatre. Koshetz's colleagues in the other principal roles were Georgy Raissov (Agrippa) and Vasily Braminov (Ruprecht), the latter replacing an indisposed Popov. All the soloists had studied their parts intensively and were extremely well prepared. Prokofiev was worried that the acoustics of the Elysées Theatre would make it difficult to achieve a balance between the singers and the orchestra on the stage. 'They were hard to hear,' he noted after the first rehearsal at which the orchestra was joined by the singers, 'even though in the second scene they were singing at the top of their voices.'[94] The general rehearsal on the morning of the day of the premiere was attended by Albert Roussel and François Poulenc among others. 'Koussevitzky had the brilliant notion of taking the second scene pianissimo,' the diary continues, 'which saved the situation.'[95]

This performance of excerpts aroused the keenest interest in Parisian cultural circles. Among those who heard it were Natalya Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov, Sergei Diaghilev, Pyotr Suvchinsky, Nikolai Obukhov, Vladimir Dukelsky, Alexander Borovsky, Leopold Stokowski and Thomas Beecham. Koussevitzky told Olin Downes that the opera, even in this truncated form ' … set the auditorium on fire.' Prokofiev noted in his diary: 'Fiery Angel went well and was greeted with very enthusiastic applause. … During the interval there was a frightful crush in the box, everyone congratulating me with genuine warmth. Altogether, the occasion was a real success.'[96]

The most detailed of the several reviews that graced the pages of the Paris newspapers came from the pen of Boris Schloezer. Sensitively, he drew attention to the composer's inner struggle between the need to depict the dramatic effects taking place on the stage and purely musical requirements. '… There were moments when it seemed that the sound was on the point of wrenching itself free from the confines of the drama to speak in its own, independent voice.' Appearing to anticipate Prokofiev's later creation of his Third Symphony from the material of the opera, he continued: 'Notable also were the germs of symphonic development in the orchestra, when the instrumental lines began to assume a freely lyrical character.'[97]

Neither Diaghilev nor Suvchinsky could accept the music of the opera, and the same proved later to be true of Koussevitzky. This performance was the only one the composer was destined ever to hear. After the performance he made substantial changes to the score. The vocal score, in his own transcription for piano, was published by Gutheil in 1927. Like Stravinsky, Prokofiev was convinced that piano reductions of symphonic, opera and ballet scores should be made by the composer himself, as he wrote to Myaskovsky in July 1924, 'lovingly and at the same time with complete freedom to manipulate…. My piano transcriptions of the Violin Concerto and The Buffoon are not up to much, but in Oranges and especially in Fiery Angel you will find some real achievements clawing their way to the surface.'[98]

*****

The 1928 season was the last time the Koussevitzky Concerts were to be heard in Paris. A year later, Prokofiev's Prodigal Son would bring the final curtain down on Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The final Koussevitzky Concert included along with Prokofiev's Fiery Angel the premiere of Dukelsky's Symphony, which will be discussed in the next chapter.

The Paris period of Prokofiev's oeuvre is often referred to as his Diaghilev period (despite the many private misgivings the composer had about the impresario and his aesthetic). A more percipient insight would be to see it as the Diaghilev and Koussevitzky period. Koussevitzky's musical collaboration with Prokofiev was to last for the whole of the quarter-century the conductor led the Boston Symphony. To this relationship we shall be returning in due course.


[1] G. Rozhdestvenskii 'Neizvedannyi mir' in Muzyka i sovremennost', 2nd edition, Sovetskii Kompozitor, Moscow 1963 p158.
[2] E. Oeberg to N. Koussevitzky, December 7 1922, Leipzig, KA-LC.
[3] Oeberg to S. Koussevitzky, July 16 1923, Paris, KA-LC.
[4] S. Prokof'ev to P. Suvchinsky, October 18 1922, Ettal. Quoted in V muzykal'nom krugu russkogo zarubezh'ya, Pis'ma k Pyotru Suvchinskomu, comp and ed Ye. Pol'dyaeva, Berlin 2005 p75.
[5] N. Koussevitzky to S. Koussevitzky, April 23 1924, Paris, KA-LC.
[6] 'His little boy is a darling and I think will take more after his mother,' wrote Natalie, 'but when I told Prokofiev that he would grow up to be better-looking than he is, he took offence.' (ibid).
[7] E. Oeberg to N. Koussevitzky, November 14 1924, Paris, KA-LC.
[8] S. Prokof'ev to N. Myaskovsky, August 3 1923, Ettal. In S.S. Prokof'ev and N. Ya. Myaskovsky. Perepiska, comp and ed M. Kozlova and N. Yatsenko, commentary V. Kiselëv, introduction and index M. Kozlova, Sovetskii Kompozitor, Moscow 1977 p166.
[9] S. Prokof'ev to P. Suvchinsky, April 14 1922, Ettal. Quoted in V muzykal'nom krugu, Op. cit. p50.
[10] ibid p52.
[11] S. Prokof'ev to E. Oeberg, April 26 1923, KA-LC.
[12] S. Prokof'ev to V. Derzhanovsky, November 23 1922, Ettal, GTsMMK fond 3 (S.S. Prokof'ev), No. 871, Sheet 1.
[13] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, July 31 1922, Ettal, KA-LC.
[14] S. Prokof'ev to E. Oeberg, April 26 1923, Ettal, AL-LCe.
[15] E. Oeberg to N. Koussevitzky, May 8 1923, Berlin, KA-LC.
[16] Sergei Prokof'ev Diaries Vol 3: Prodigal Son, tr A. Phillips, Faber & Faber, London 2012 p44.
[17] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, February 10 1925, Bellevue, KA-LC.
[18] Both letters are preserved in the Prokofiev Archive in London. Quoted in Ye. Pol'dyaeva 'Prokof'ev i russkaya emigratsiya v Parizhe 20-ikh godov' in Sergei Prokof'ev. Pis'ma, Vospominaniya. Stat'i, GTsMMK, Moscow 2007 p256.
[19] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, October 27 1924, Bellevue, KA-LC.
[20] S. Prokof'ev to S. Koussevitzky, November 28 1924, Bellevue, KA-LC.
[21] S. Prokof'ev to N. Myaskovsky, January 4 1923, Ettal. In S.S. Prokof'ev and N. Ya. Myaskovsky. Perepiska, executive ed and introduction D. Kabalevsky, comp and ed M. Kozlova and N. Yatsenko, commentary V. Kiselëv, Sovetskii Kompozitor, Moscow 1977 p149.
[22] 'Property of the composer and the editor'.
[23] S. Prokof'ev to N. Myaskovsky, ibid, p401.
[24] N. Myaskovsky to S. Prokof'ev, Op. cit p405. Myaskovsky had a job as an editor at Musgiz (the State Music Publishing House). Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga ('International Book') was the organisation established in the USSR in 1923 to handle the importing of foreign books and music, and the exporting of Soviet publications. It operated alongside VOKS (Vsesoyuznoe obshchestvo kul'turnykh svyazyei) [All-Union Society for Cultural Relations] which was responsible for the exchange of cultural manifestations such as exhibitions, concert and theatre tours, etc.
[25] G. Paichadze to N. Koussevitzky, October 31 1927, Paris, KA-LC.
[26] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, May 11, Paris, KA-LC. The occasion was the third recital Prokofiev gave in Paris that season (the first had taken place in November 1923, the second on 9th March in the Opéra Comique.) Both these recitals had included Musorgsky's Pictures from an Exhibition, a work that was enjoying great popularity in Paris on account of Koussevitzky having recently premiered Ravel's orchestration of the original piano score. In March, Prokofiev had played his new Fifth Piano Sonata for the first time, while the May recital was shared with the soprano Zinaïda Yurevskaya, whom the composer accompanied in a group of his songs as well as a group of solo piano pieces including the Toccata. The Koussevitzkys did attend. See Prokof'ev Diaries, vol 3, Op. cit. pp 30, 52.
[27] See Prokof'ev Diaries, vol 3, Op. cit, p850.
[28] L. Prokof'eva to N. Koussevitzky, December 13 1926, Paris, KA-LC.
[29] N. Koussevitzky to S. Koussevitzky, undated (1923), Paris, KA-LC.
[30] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, undated, KA-LC.
[31] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, July 8 1923, Ettal, KA-LC.
[32] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, July 31 1922, Ettal, KA-LC.
[33] S. Prokof'ev to S. Koussevitzky, January 19 1925, Warsaw, KA-LC.
[34] In Poslednye Novosti (Latest News), Paris, on March 17th 1924.
[35] Schloezer's critical article had appeared in Zhar-ptitsa (The Firebird), 1921, No. 4-5.
[36] Koussevitzky's letter to the Parisian press was enclosed in a letter despatched by Natalie Koussevitzky from London on April 4th 1924 to Vladimir Zederbaum in Paris, with a request for it to be sent as an open letter to the press.
[37] Prokof'ev Diaries Vol 1: 1907-1904, Prodigious Youth, tr A. Phillips, Faber & Faber, London 2006 p593.
[38] Prokof'ev, Diaries, vol 3, Op. cit. p43.
[39] N. Koussevitzky to S. Koussevitzky, April 15 1924, Paris, KA-LC.
[40] S. Prokof'ev to S. Koussevitzky, November 18 1926, Paris, KA-LC.
[41] L. Prokof'eva to N. Koussevitzky, July 20 1928, Château de Vétraz, Haute Savoie. KA-LC.
[42] S. Koussevitzky to N. Koussevitzky, August 11 1928, AK LC.
[43] Prokof'ev Diaries, vol 3, Op. cit. p718.
[44] L. Prokof'eva to N. Koussevitzky, August 17 1928, Château de Vétraz, Haute Savoie, KA-LC.
[45] L. Prokof'eva to N. Koussevitzky, September 14 1928, Château de Vétraz, KA-LC.
[46] S. Prokof'ev, L. Prokof'eva, P. Lamm, B. Asafiev to S. Koussevitzky, September 29 1928, Lugano, KA-LC.
[47] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, October 15 1928, Paris, KA-LC.
[48] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, November 14 1928, Paris, KA-LC.
[49] Prokofiev Diaries, vol 3, Op. cit. pp69-70.
[50] S. Prokof'ev to S. Koussevitzky, September 25 1924, St. Gilles, KA-LC.
[51] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, October 27 1924, Bellevue, KA-LC.
[52] S. Prokof'ev to S. Koussevitzky, November 28 1924, Bellevue, KA-LC.
[53] S. Prokof'ev to S. Koussevitzky, January 2 1925, Bellevue, KA-LC.
[54] S. Prokof'ev to S. Koussevitzky, November 28 1924, Bellevue, KA-LC.
[55] Prokof'ev Diaries, Op. cit. vol 3 p 163.
[56] Ibid, pp163-4.
[57] D. Nice Prokofiev: From Russia to the West, 1891-1935, Yale UP, New Haven and London 2003 pp212-3.
[58] Prokof'ev Diaries, Op. cit, vol 3 p169.
[59] S. Prokof'ev to N. Myaskovsky, August 4 1925, Marlotte, in Prokof'ev i Myaskovsky perepiska, Op. cit p216.
[60] N. Myaskovsky to S. Prokof'ev, in Prokof'ev i Myaskovsky perepiska, Op. cit p219.
[61] N. Myaskovsky to S. Prokof'ev, November 3 1924, Moscow, in Prokof'ev i Myaskovsky perepiska, Op. cit p226.
[62] Ibid, p219.
[63] Prokofiev Autobiography in Shlifshteyn (ed) S.S. Prokofiev, Op. cit. p174.
[64] S. Prokof'ev to N. Myaskovsky, August 4 1924, Marlotte, in Prokof'ev i Myaskovsky perepiska, Op. cit p216.
[65] P. Suvchinsky to S. Prokof'ev, October 22 1924, Paris. Quoted in V muzykal'nom krugu, Op. cit. p129.
[66] N. Myaskovsky to S. Prokof'ev, August 16 1924, Moscow, in Prokof'ev i Myaskovsky perepiska, Op. cit. p219.
[67] N. Myaskovsky to S. Prokof'ev, November 3, Moscow, in Prokof'ev i Myaskovsky perepiska, Op. cit. p226.
[68] Prokofiev Diaries, vol 3, Op. cit, p301.
[69]. Yu. V. 'Iz besedy s Prokof'evym' ['From an Interview with Prokofiev'] in Rabochy i teatr, Leningrad, 1927 No. 8, February 22, p12.
[70] S. Prokof'ev to N. Myaskovsky, December 6 1925, Clamart, in Prokof'ev i Myaskovsky perepiska, Op. cit. See also Prokofiev's account of the discussion in his diary entry for June 12th 1925 (Prokofiev Diaries, vol 3, Op. cit. p176).
[71] Ibid, p245. Neither was it successful when, after Koussevitzky's premiere performance, it was conducted in Paris by the active promoter of contemporary music Walter Straram, on May 6th 1926 and again on February 16th 1928. 'Not very talented, but meticulous,' was Prokofiev's laconic verdict on Straram. As he reported to Myaskovsky, the conductor had '…studied the score much better than Koussya,' although '… still the latter's overall line was more elegant.' (S. Prokof'ev to N. Myaskovsky, May 15 1926, Paris. In Prokof'ev i Myaskovsky perepiska, Op. cit. p242). As for the score itself Alexander Gauk, who performed the work in Moscow in 1935, had this to say: '… very difficult both for the orchestra and for the conductor.' (A. Gauk 'Po stranitsam vospominanii dirizhëra', in Aleksandr Vasilievich Gauk. Memuary. Izbrannye stat'i. Vospominania sovremennikov, comp and ed L. Gauk, R. Glezer, Ya. Milshtein, Sovetskii Kompozitor, Moscow 1975 p113). Like Koussevitzky, he made no attempt to repeat the performance.
[72] Gennady Rozhdestvensky 'Neizvedannyi mir' in Muzyka i sovremennost' vol 2, Sovetskii Kompozitor, Moscow 1963 p158.
[73] Large Symphony Orchestra of Central Television and All-Union Radio, LP Melodiya 33C 0337-8; CD Consonance 815007; BMG 74321669792.
[74] Rozhdestvensky 'Neizvedannyi mir', Op. cit. p158.
[75] The Kikimora is a generally malevolent creature in Russian mythology. Coming in, unwelcome, from the swamp or the forest, where she is the wife of Leshy, the Wood-demon, she takes up residence behind the stove or in the cellar of the house she haunts. When home builders fell out with their clients, they would fashion a Kikimora doll and conceal it under the main beam or under the front corner of the house. Your dishes will break, the stove will go out, the wind and rain will come in and the chickens will not lay eggs and die. If Kikimora has come to live in your house, you will find it almost impossible to make her leave. Baba-Yaga in Russian folklore is a witch who flies around not on a broomstick but in a mortar, wielding a pestle. She is inconceivably hideous and lives in a hut in the forest which stands on fowl's legs. Despite her unappealing appearance she is not all bad. The folkloric scholar Andreas Johns characterises her as: 'a many-faceted figure, capable of inspiring researchers to see her as a Cloud, Moon, Death, Winter, Snake, Bird, Pelican or Earth Goddess, totemic matriarchal ancestress, female initiator, phallic mother, or archetypical image.' (A. Johns 'Baba Yaga and the Russian Mother' in The Slavic and East European Journal 1998, No. 42 p21). Kashchei the Immortal is the primeval enemy of man, an ever-present threat. He cannot be killed by ordinary means because his soul is detached from his body and is hidden inside an egg, which has been swallowed by a duck which has in turn been eaten by a hare. The hare is inside an iron chest buried on the remote island of Buyan.
[76] Orchestre National de l'ORTF, LP, Columbia FCX 629.
[77] The revised version of 1928.
[78] G. Paichadze to S. Koussevitzky, November 14 1929, Danzig, KA-LC.
[79] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, November 29 1927, Paris, KA-LC.
[80] Prokofiev Diaries, vol 3, Op. cit. pp329, 331. The original Russian title of Prokofiev's ballet, based on a folk tale from Afanasiev's collection, Skazka pro shuta, semerykh shutov pereshutivsego [The Tale of the Buffoon Who Out-Buffooned Seven Buffoons] is (like the plot) somewhat abstruse and unwieldy for Anglophone ballet-goers, who consequently usually know it as The Tale of the Buffoon, or even more simply The Buffoon.
[81] S. Prokof'ev to N. Myaskovsky, October 5 1923, Ettal, in Prokof'ev i Myaskovsky perepiska, Op. cit. p171.
[82] D. Nice Prokofiev. From Russia to the West, Op. cit. p244.
[83] Prokof'ev Diaries, vol 3, Op. cit. p469.
[84] Sergei Prokof'ev 'Parizh. Vesennyii sezon 1927 goda', quoted in V. Varunts 'Novye materialy iz zarubezhnykh arkhivov' in Muzykal'naya Akademiya 2000, No. 2 p189.
[85] S. Prokof'ev to S. Koussevitzky, November 29 1927, Paris, KA-LC.
[86] S. Prokof'ev to S. Diaghilev, August 16 1925, Marlotte. Quoted in Varunts, Op. cit. p196.
[87] S. Koussevitzky to G. Paichadze, undated (after October 22 1927), Boston, KA-LC.
[88] Prokof'ev Diaries, Op. cit. pp74-5.
[89] RME did publish the vocal score of Fiery Angel in 1927.
[90] S. Prokof'ev to N. Koussevitzky, November 29 1927, Paris, KA-LC.
[91] S. Prokof'ev to S. Koussevitzky, March 19 1928, Paris, KA-LC.
[92] Prokof'ev Diaries, vol 3, Op. cit. p711.
[93] N. Koshetz to S. Koussevitzky, January 13 1927, San Sebastian, KA-LC.
[94] Prokof'ev Diaries, Op. cit, vol 3 p712.
[95] Prokofiev Diaries, Op. cit. pp712-3.
[96] ibid, p713.
[97] B. Schloezer: untitled article in Latest News (Paris), June 22 1928, clipping in Koussevitzky's archive (KA-LC). Prokofiev's Third Symphony was completed on November 3 1928.
[98] S. Prokof'ev to N. Myaskovsky, July 15 1924, St. Gilles-sur-Vie, in Prokof'ev i Myaskovsky perepiska, Op. cit. p199.

Copyright © 2015, Victor Yuzefovich - Translation by Anthony Phillips

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