The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years

Oxford University Press
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Sergey Prokofiev was one of the twentieth century's greatest composers--and one of its greatest mysteries. Until now. In The People's Artist, Simon Morrison draws on groundbreaking research to illuminate the life of this major composer, deftly analyzing Prokofiev's music in light of new archival discoveries. Indeed, Morrison was the first scholar to gain access to the composer's sealed files in the Russian State Archives, where he uncovered a wealth of previously unknown scores, writings, correspondence, and unopened journals and diaries. The story he found in these documents is one of lofty hopes and disillusionment, of personal and creative upheavals. Morrison shows that Prokofiev seemed to thrive on uncertainty during his Paris years, stashing scores in suitcases, and ultimately stunning his fellow emigr?s by returning to Stalin's Russia. At first, Stalin's regime treated him as a celebrity, but Morrison details how the bureaucratic machine ground him down with corrections and censorship (forcing rewrites of such major works as Romeo and Juliet), until it finally censured him in 1948, ending his career and breaking his health.
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About the author

Simon Morrison is Professor of Music at Princeton University. He restored the original, uncensored version of Romeo and Juliet for the Mark Morris Dance Group, who performed its world premier in 2008.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Nov 25, 2008
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Pages
512
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ISBN
9780199720514
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
Music / Genres & Styles / Classical
Music / History & Criticism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Simon Morrison
This account of the renowned composer’s neglected wife—including her years in a Soviet prison—is “a story both riveting and wrenching” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Serge Prokofiev was one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant composers yet is an enigma to historians and his fans. Why did he leave the West and move to the Soviet Union despite Stalin’s crimes? Why did his astonishing creativity in the 1930s soon dissolve into a far less inspiring output in his later years? The answers can finally be revealed, thanks to Simon Morrison’s unique and unfettered access to the family’s voluminous papers and his ability to reconstruct the tragic, riveting life of the composer’s wife, Lina.

Morrison’s portrait of the marriage of Lina and Serge Prokofiev is the story of a remarkable woman who fought for survival in the face of unbearable betrayal and despair and of the irresistibly talented but heartlessly self-absorbed musician she married. Born to a Spanish father and Russian mother in Madrid at the end of the nineteenth century and raised in Brooklyn, Lina fell in love with a rising-star composer—and defied convention to be with him, courting public censure. She devoted her life to Serge and to art, training to be an operatic soprano and following her brilliant husband to Stalin’s Russia. Just as Serge found initial acclaim—before becoming constricted by the harsh doctrine of socialist-realist music—Lina was at first accepted and later scorned, ending her singing career. Serge abandoned her and took up with another woman. Finally, Lina was arrested and shipped off to the gulag in 1948. She would be held in captivity for eight awful years. Meanwhile, Serge found himself the tool of an evil regime to which he was forced to accommodate himself.

The contrast between Lina and Serge is one of strength and perseverance versus utter self-absorption, a remarkable human drama that draws on the forces of art, sacrifice, and the struggle against oppression. Readers will never forget the tragic drama of Lina’s life, and never listen to Serge’s music in quite the same way again.
www.hmhbooks.com/linaandserge
Simon Morrison
An enthralling, definitive new history of the Bolshoi Ballet, where visionary performances onstage compete with political machinations backstage.

On a freezing night in January 2013, a hooded assailant hurled acid in the face of the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet. The crime, organized by a lead soloist, dragged one of Russia’s most illustrious institutions into scandal. The Bolshoi Theater had been a crown jewel during the reign of the tsars and an emblem of Soviet power throughout the twentieth century. Under Putin in the twenty-first century, it has been called on to preserve a priceless artistic legacy and mirror Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions. The attack and its torrid aftermath underscored the importance of the Bolshoi to the art of ballet, to Russia, and to the world.

The acid attack resonated far beyond the world of ballet, both into Russia’s political infrastructure and, as renowned musicologist Simon Morrison shows in his tour-de-force account, the very core of the Bolshoi’s unparalleled history. With exclusive access to state archives and private sources, Morrison sweeps us through the history of the storied ballet, describing the careers of those onstage as well as off, tracing the political ties that bind the institution to the varying Russian regimes, and detailing the birth of some of the best-loved ballets in the repertoire.

From its disreputable beginnings in 1776 at the hand of a Faustian charlatan, the Bolshoi became a point of pride for the tsarist empire after the defeat of Napoleon in 1812. After the revolution, Moscow was transformed from a merchant town to a global capital, its theater becoming a key site of power. Meetings of the Communist Party were hosted at the Bolshoi, and the Soviet Union was signed into existence on its stage. During the Soviet years, artists struggled with corrosive censorship, while ballet joined chess tournaments and space exploration as points of national pride and Cold War contest. Recently, a $680 million restoration has restored the Bolshoi to its former glory, even as prized talent has departed.

As Morrison reveals in lush and insightful prose, the theater has been bombed, rigged with explosives, and reinforced with cement. Its dancers have suffered unimaginable physical torment to climb the ranks, sometimes for so little money that they kept cows at home whose milk they could sell for food. But the Bolshoi has transcended its own fraught history, surviving 250 years of artistic and political upheaval to define not only Russian culture but also ballet itself. In this sweeping, definitive account, Morrison demonstrates once and for all that, as Russia goes, so goes the Bolshoi Ballet.

Simon Morrison
Klara Moricz
Funeral Games in Honor of Arthur Vincent Louri? explores the varied aesthetic impulses and ever-evolving personal motivations of Russian composer Arthur Louri?. A St. Petersburg native allied with the Futurist movement and profoundly sympathetic to Silver Age decadence, Louri? was swept away by the Revolution; he surfaced as a Communist commissar of music before landing in Europe and America, where his career foundered. Making his way by serving others, he became Stravinsky's right-hand man, Serge Koussevitsky's ghostwriter, and philosopher Jacques Maritain's muse. Louri? left his mark on the poems of Anna Akhmatova, on the neoclassical aesthetics of Stravinsky, on Eurasianism, and on Maritain's NeoThomist musings about music. Louri? serves as a flawless lens through which aspects of Silver Age Russia, early Bolshevik rule, and the cultural space of exile come into sharper focus. But this interdisciplinary collection of essays, edited by musicologists Kl?ra M?ricz and Simon Morrison, also looks at Louri? himself as an artist and intellectual in his own right. Much of the aesthetic and technical discussion concerns his grandly eulogistic opera The Blackamoor of Peter the Great, understood as both a belated Symbolist work and as a NeoThomist exercise. Despite the importance Louri? attached to the opera as his masterwork, Blackamoor has never been performed, its fate thus serving as an emblem of Louri?'s own. Yet even if Louri? seems to have been destined to be but a footnote in the pages of music history, he looms large in studies of emigration and cultural memory. Here Louri?'s life, like his last opera, is presented as a meditation on the circumstances and psychology of exile. Ultimately, these essays recover a lost realm of musical and aesthetic possibilities-a Russia that Louri?, and the world, saw disappear.
Bill Browder
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This is a story about an accidental activist. Bill Browder started out his adult life as the Wall Street maverick whose instincts led him to Russia just after the breakup of the Soviet Union, where he made his fortune.

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A financial caper, a crime thriller, and a political crusade, Red Notice is the story of one man taking on overpowering odds to change the world, and also the story of how, without intending to, he found meaning in his life.
Simon Morrison
An enthralling, definitive new history of the Bolshoi Ballet, where visionary performances onstage compete with political machinations backstage.

On a freezing night in January 2013, a hooded assailant hurled acid in the face of the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet. The crime, organized by a lead soloist, dragged one of Russia’s most illustrious institutions into scandal. The Bolshoi Theater had been a crown jewel during the reign of the tsars and an emblem of Soviet power throughout the twentieth century. Under Putin in the twenty-first century, it has been called on to preserve a priceless artistic legacy and mirror Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions. The attack and its torrid aftermath underscored the importance of the Bolshoi to the art of ballet, to Russia, and to the world.

The acid attack resonated far beyond the world of ballet, both into Russia’s political infrastructure and, as renowned musicologist Simon Morrison shows in his tour-de-force account, the very core of the Bolshoi’s unparalleled history. With exclusive access to state archives and private sources, Morrison sweeps us through the history of the storied ballet, describing the careers of those onstage as well as off, tracing the political ties that bind the institution to the varying Russian regimes, and detailing the birth of some of the best-loved ballets in the repertoire.

From its disreputable beginnings in 1776 at the hand of a Faustian charlatan, the Bolshoi became a point of pride for the tsarist empire after the defeat of Napoleon in 1812. After the revolution, Moscow was transformed from a merchant town to a global capital, its theater becoming a key site of power. Meetings of the Communist Party were hosted at the Bolshoi, and the Soviet Union was signed into existence on its stage. During the Soviet years, artists struggled with corrosive censorship, while ballet joined chess tournaments and space exploration as points of national pride and Cold War contest. Recently, a $680 million restoration has restored the Bolshoi to its former glory, even as prized talent has departed.

As Morrison reveals in lush and insightful prose, the theater has been bombed, rigged with explosives, and reinforced with cement. Its dancers have suffered unimaginable physical torment to climb the ranks, sometimes for so little money that they kept cows at home whose milk they could sell for food. But the Bolshoi has transcended its own fraught history, surviving 250 years of artistic and political upheaval to define not only Russian culture but also ballet itself. In this sweeping, definitive account, Morrison demonstrates once and for all that, as Russia goes, so goes the Bolshoi Ballet.

Simon Morrison
This account of the renowned composer’s neglected wife—including her years in a Soviet prison—is “a story both riveting and wrenching” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Serge Prokofiev was one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant composers yet is an enigma to historians and his fans. Why did he leave the West and move to the Soviet Union despite Stalin’s crimes? Why did his astonishing creativity in the 1930s soon dissolve into a far less inspiring output in his later years? The answers can finally be revealed, thanks to Simon Morrison’s unique and unfettered access to the family’s voluminous papers and his ability to reconstruct the tragic, riveting life of the composer’s wife, Lina.

Morrison’s portrait of the marriage of Lina and Serge Prokofiev is the story of a remarkable woman who fought for survival in the face of unbearable betrayal and despair and of the irresistibly talented but heartlessly self-absorbed musician she married. Born to a Spanish father and Russian mother in Madrid at the end of the nineteenth century and raised in Brooklyn, Lina fell in love with a rising-star composer—and defied convention to be with him, courting public censure. She devoted her life to Serge and to art, training to be an operatic soprano and following her brilliant husband to Stalin’s Russia. Just as Serge found initial acclaim—before becoming constricted by the harsh doctrine of socialist-realist music—Lina was at first accepted and later scorned, ending her singing career. Serge abandoned her and took up with another woman. Finally, Lina was arrested and shipped off to the gulag in 1948. She would be held in captivity for eight awful years. Meanwhile, Serge found himself the tool of an evil regime to which he was forced to accommodate himself.

The contrast between Lina and Serge is one of strength and perseverance versus utter self-absorption, a remarkable human drama that draws on the forces of art, sacrifice, and the struggle against oppression. Readers will never forget the tragic drama of Lina’s life, and never listen to Serge’s music in quite the same way again.
www.hmhbooks.com/linaandserge
Klara Moricz
Funeral Games in Honor of Arthur Vincent Louri? explores the varied aesthetic impulses and ever-evolving personal motivations of Russian composer Arthur Louri?. A St. Petersburg native allied with the Futurist movement and profoundly sympathetic to Silver Age decadence, Louri? was swept away by the Revolution; he surfaced as a Communist commissar of music before landing in Europe and America, where his career foundered. Making his way by serving others, he became Stravinsky's right-hand man, Serge Koussevitsky's ghostwriter, and philosopher Jacques Maritain's muse. Louri? left his mark on the poems of Anna Akhmatova, on the neoclassical aesthetics of Stravinsky, on Eurasianism, and on Maritain's NeoThomist musings about music. Louri? serves as a flawless lens through which aspects of Silver Age Russia, early Bolshevik rule, and the cultural space of exile come into sharper focus. But this interdisciplinary collection of essays, edited by musicologists Kl?ra M?ricz and Simon Morrison, also looks at Louri? himself as an artist and intellectual in his own right. Much of the aesthetic and technical discussion concerns his grandly eulogistic opera The Blackamoor of Peter the Great, understood as both a belated Symbolist work and as a NeoThomist exercise. Despite the importance Louri? attached to the opera as his masterwork, Blackamoor has never been performed, its fate thus serving as an emblem of Louri?'s own. Yet even if Louri? seems to have been destined to be but a footnote in the pages of music history, he looms large in studies of emigration and cultural memory. Here Louri?'s life, like his last opera, is presented as a meditation on the circumstances and psychology of exile. Ultimately, these essays recover a lost realm of musical and aesthetic possibilities-a Russia that Louri?, and the world, saw disappear.
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