Prokofiev piece rediscovered at Princeton

    A forgotten musical score that Sergei Prokofiev wrote 70 years ago will finally have its premiere at Princeton University Friday.

    A forgotten musical score that Sergei Prokofiev wrote 70 years ago will finally have its premiere at Princeton University Friday. A Princeton professor found the score in a Russian archive while researching a book about the composer. the music is a lighthearted romp with a tragic history.
    Caption: Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Credit: United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090716pcproko.mp3]

    Prokofiev was commissioned by the Stalinist government in the late 1930’s to write this music for a theatrical display of sport. The theater director of the event was accused of treason and shot.

    So the athletic exhibition and its music became political poison, and quickly buried.

    Curtis Institute of Music historian David Ludwig says even though Prokofiev had fled the Soviet Union during the Revolution, he came back to be chief composer for the state.

    Ludwig: Prokofiev before he came was pretty doubtful of anything positive during Stalinism. So, he was going back to a pretty rich cultural life and his native language. It’s hard to fault him for wanting to go home.

    The original performance was to include a salute to Stalin. The premiere will instead include a salute to Princeton president Shirley Tighlman.

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