Archive for May 19, 2008

Prokofiev’s Subtle Overtones and Sublime Irony

Hearing the talented Russian National Orchestra play Sergei Prokofiev’s composition of Peter and the Wolf on Saturday night has me thinking he meant it to be MORE than for just children.  No composer puts that much energy into a piece without it having some hidden nuances for adults as well.  I’m very curious what Prokofiev had in mind when he plotted out his drama in Peter and the Wolf.  Are all of Prokofiev’s compositions too subtle for us to recognize his meanings now and also clever enough to get past the censors of his day?  Has no one dared to point out his superb genius in cloaking what he REALLY thought of Stalin? 

Much frivolous and wasteful nonsense went on under Stalin’s clumsy politics but bloody rule.  Amazingly, Prokofiev somehow survived close proximity to Stalin where others in Stalin’s inner circle did not.  Read this link by Peter Conrad in the “The Cossack Chopin” or another article by Ian MacDonald titled “An Interpretation of the Composer’s Relationship with the Soviet Regime.” 

From my readings about Russian fables, the archetype of the wolf in any story, the wolf is always known as greedy and stupid.  I believe Prokofiev dared to fantasize Stalin as the wolf.  I have not figured out yet who the duck might be that was swallowed whole by the wolf and was still alive quacking inside the wolf’s stomach.  I also want to find out who the bird and cat might be in Peter and the Wolf.  I believe Peter, the hero in the story, might have been Prokofiev himself, but who is Peter’s grandfather? Perhaps the people in the whole U.S.S.R. are the duck, especially in
Ukraine and Kazakhstan where millions had earlier perished under Stalin’s imposed famine of 1932-33. 

The irony of Prokofiev’s life under Stalin’s leadership is they both died on the very same day,
March 5, 1953.  The sublime triumph of the musical composer over the wretched dictator of 30 years is that “Life is short but art is long.” Prokofiev’s life lives on in his music, the true evil nature of Stalin’s has been exposed.

The following written by C.S. Lewis has me wondering what HE knew about the U.S.S.R. while he was secure in an ivory tower in Great Britain.  I believe C.S.Lewis had Stalin in mind when he penned these words in his piece “The World’s Last Night:”

“Some moderns talk as though duties to posterity were the only duties we had.  I can imagine no man who will look with more horror on the End than a conscientious revolutionary who has, in a sense sincerely, been justifying cruelties and injustices inflicted on millions of his contemporaries by the benefits which he hopes to confer on future generations: generations who, as one terrible moment now reveals to him, were never going to exist.  Then he will see the massacres, the faked trials, the deportations, to be all ineffaceably real, an essential part, his part, in the drama that has just ended: while the future Utopia had never been anything but a fantasy.”

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