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The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years Hardcover – November 25, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (November 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195181670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195181678
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #964,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"Provides a much enlarged picture of [Prokofiev's] later life and work...Professor Morrison has adopted a calm and measured approach, with fluently descriptive and comprehensive accounts of his varied output...Much new cultural and ideological context is lucidly provided." --The Musical Times


"In his new book Morrison greatly illuminates episodes, hitherto barely known, in the life of the composer after his return to the USSR. The small facts and biographical details in the 400 pages are arranged, as if by themselves, into a picture of the tragedy of Prokofiev as a person and an artist."--Gazeta "Kul'tura" (Moscow)


"A phenomenal study."--El Pais


"Morrison reveals new and captivating information about a period of Prokofiev's life that has been little known. Enthusiastically recommended for public and academic libraries."--Library Journal


"Morrison has filled so many gaps that The People's Artist is a book all Prokofiev's admirers will need. He gives us a wholly convincing picture of the elusive mix of aesthetic bureaucracy and terror that informed Soviet music life. As is should be, the tale is also an affecting one."--Gramophone


"Morrison's long-awaited book fills a gaping hole in the literature on Russian music. It significantly increases understanding of Prokofiev's decision to return to Soviet Russia, gives a detailed and thoroughly convincing picture of what his life there was like, and sheds welcome light on his creative output from those years, and on the esthetics and achievement of Soviet music generally. Tragedy is indeed its genre: Prokofiev's life, and the lives of his wife and children, were wrecked in consequence of his character flaws, and this message comes through with heartrending force. This is one of the most affecting books of its kind."--Richard Taruskin, author of The Oxford History of Western Music


"Morrison's book explores the most mis-understood and often mis-reported period of my grandfather's life--his return to Russia. It is very carefully researched, academically sound and objective in its approach; yet very readable, clear and concise. The People's Artist reveals many details of his life that were previously unclear, and the extent of the censorship and difficulties he faced as a Soviet composer."--Gabriel Prokofiev


"[A] groundbreaking study do[es] much to aid our understanding of the composer and his return to the Soviet Union."--Bookforum


"Overdue homage to a composer of whom British critic Robert Layton rightly said, "He never lost his power to fascinate.""--The American Conservative


"Morrison has done a tremendous amount of work in the various Prokofiev archives and is able to give a detailed account of the process whereby each individual work was commissioned, composed, accepted for production or performance, orchestrated, revised (often many times) and reworked in response to criticism or the requirements of directors."--The London Review of Books


"[An] excellent book."--The New York Review of Books


"Morrison has also made thorough use of the very substantial body of archival materials concerning the Soviet administration of the arts that Russian scholars began publishing in the 1990s."--Times Literary Supplement


"Simon Morrison has now produced the most definitive study of Prokofiev the Soviet composer in any language, drawing on a wealth of archival material hitherto unavailable...Indispensable to anyone even casually interested in this field."--Music and Letters


"Unequivocally is and will remain the definitive study of Prokofiev's alter years. It leaves the reader with an enhanced respect for Prokofiev as a brillant composer as well as a man who continued to persevere artistically despite inhuman pressures. It brillantly recalls the horrors of Staliism withour devolving into an ideological screed. Music scholars and lay people alike will enjoy and benifit from reading it." --Opera News


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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Philippe Vandenbroeck VINE VOICE on June 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
It is obviously always very welcome when a major monograph is published about a peculiar artist such as Sergei Prokofiev. I read Harlow Robinson's Sergei Prokofiev: A Biography long ago and the image I came away with was of a tremendously gifted but temperamental, opportunistic and egocentric composer. One of the most mystifying episodes in Prokofiev's life is his move back to the Soviet Union, early in 1936, almost at the nadir of Stalinist repression. The introductory chapter in Morrison's book illuminate the logic of this surprising move. Basically, Prokofiev was outfoxed by the Soviet apparatchiks. When he was abroad, before his move, he was promised considerable perks and artistic freedoms. A steady stream of Soviet commissions led 1935 to be one of the most lucrative years of his career. And Prokofiev was pretty sure he could keep his options open: when the Soviet adventure would prove to be a disappointment, he and his family could always return to the West. Very soon it was clear that the Soviet cultural establishment had another scenario in mind. In the first few years, Prokofiev and his wife Lina were allowed to travel abroad with their children, however, remaining as `hostages' in Moscow. Already in 1938 Prokofiev did his very last tour outside of the Soviet Union. Henceforth, he would remain in the Soviet Union.

That being said, Sergei Prokofiev did produce some (maybe even most) of his timeless works during the roughly 25-year long Soviet chapter in his life. So something in that precarious setting must have connected with his creative impulse.

The merits of Morrison's study are multiple.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Terry B. King on May 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
THE PEOPLE'S ARTIST is the single most important work to date on the great composer emphasizing the Soviet era. Morrison writes as if he were telling the story in the first person, divulging the most detailed scholarship culled from primary sources hitherto unknown to the West. The culture of the Soviet era is revealed, solving many mysteries that show his true motives for decisions both personal and professional. Most notably, Prokofiev's intentions in choosing to stay in the Soviet Union are finally clearly presented. No stone is unturned. The fascinating process of composing many works at the same time, of producing the ballets and working with the epic filmmaker Sergey Eisenstein - yet at all times anticipating the provincial demands of Stalin's hierarchy - are brought to vivid focus. This book belongs in any library, and especially to those readers interested in the enigmatic composer and the Soviet era. Terry King
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter D Klein on January 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
It's a good reference. It's insightful, quality research. Of course there are two sides to the story. Some scholars view Prokofiev as apolitical. This book clearly paints him as a very political composer. The real problem in researching this composer is in sifting out the evidence that is coerced due to living under a repressive regime thus exposing his actual desires and intent. How does one decide what is propoganda and what is sincere?

Having read both views, I tend to agree with this view. The need for simplicity was something he was taught to pursue from his childhood and it coincided nicely with the ideology of Soviet Realism and music for the common man. I believe he truly wanted to please the people and the government he served, but the shifting, chaotic nature of the political and ideological landscape in the Stalin years made it a nearly impossible task.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tsingtao Tootsie on May 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Our college students can't quite grasp the misery of living under Stalin's thumb, and the meticulous reporting on the life of this famous composer after his move to the Soviet Union (not his return home, because he left while it was still Tsarist Russia) is excellent. For researchers and reflective readers only.
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