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Prokofiev Study Day

Council Chamber, Deptford Town Hall, 25 March 2006
in association with The Serge Prokofiev Archive, Goldsmiths College, London

Boris Berman (Yale University) "Prokofiev the pianist"

Sir Edward Downes"Prokofiev's music for the plays Egyptian Nights, Boris Godunov, Eugene Onegin"

Alexander Ivashkin (Centre for Russian Music, Goldsmiths College)
"Cooling the Volcano: Cello Concerto Op. 58 and Symphony-Concerto Op. 125"

Violeta Llano and Ayako Tabo Sonata for Flute and Piano Op. 94

Piano Masterclass with Boris Berman
Yvonne Tsang, Sonata No. 2 Op.14
Ivana Gavric, Sonata No. 4 Op. 29
Alexander Grynyuk, Sonata No. 7 Op. 83

Philip Bullock (School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London)
"Songs for Stalin? Prokofiev's Soviet Lyrics"

Noëlle Mann (Prokofiev Archive, Goldsmiths College)"A symphonic transmutation: the second version of Symphony No. 4"

Nathan Seinen (Clare College, Cambridge)"Kutuzov's victory, Prokofiev's defeat: the revised War and Peace"

Boris Berman: Piano Sonata No. 5 Op.135 (2nd version)
Tania Sirotina & Olga Verizhnikova (sopranos) with Kyung-Mee Lee & Asako Ogawa (piano): The Ugly Duckling Op 11 and two of the Childrens' Songs Op 68
Alexander Ivashkin and Boris Berman: Cello Sonata, Op.119

A packed day of talk and music at the Council Chamber, Deptford Town Hall attracted a good audience of Russian speaking specialists and members of the public. I attended most of it; a pervading theme was revisions of earlier work.

Sir Edward Downes regretted that Prokofiev never developed earlier ideas for music theatre, and presented fragments illustrating what might have been. Professor Alexander Ivashkin demonstrated the great differences between the early cello concerto which has been eclipsed by the recomposed and expanded Symphony-Concerto, showing us the near-impossibility of some passages in the concerto. Noëlle Mann, the dedicated curator of The Serge Prokofiev Archive, told us unknown facts about the genesis of the 4th Symphony, which was later greatly expanded; she made a strong case for performing both versions. Philip Bullock explored Prokofiev's relation to lyric composition in Stalin's Soviet Russia. Nathan Seinen made a strong plea for the unperformed and unknown first version of War & Peace as the composer envisaged it, before its shape was compromised by political imperatives. The morning ended with an endearing account of the first version of Op 94; Violeta Llano made a strong case on her flute for its original version, latterly somewhat overshadowed by the violin arrangement for Oistrakh.

Boris Berman's master classes were frustrating because after performances of whole sonatas, there remained too little time to pursue issues which arose; Alexander Grynyuk gave a superficially exciting account of No 7, but was urged to suppress his own excitement whilst performing and to develop finger staccato. It was good for his students, and for us, to be able to hear this famous Prokofievian perform one of the sonatas later in the afternoon.

The concert was of personal interest to me because it included songs which I had not heard performed live since producing LPs of them, sung by my son Simon Woolf (in English) in the late '60s. Although the proceedings took place in English, those were given in Russian, regrettably without any translations provided, for many listeners lessening communication of the stories they told. That apart, the documentation supplied was comprehensive, and many of the papers will appear in the The Serge Prokofiev Archive's journal Three Oranges, edited by Noëlle Mann, who had organised this highly successful event.

© Peter Grahame Woolf