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Sergei Prokofiev: A Biography Paperback – January 24, 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
Readers looking for a fawning hagiography are advised to look elsewhere. While Robinson focuses on the composer's work (with a special emphasis on the operas), there is no effort to whitewash his self-centeredness and very difficult personality. Stories of Prokofiev's coldness and cruelty are legion. One wonders how he would have fared in today's world with the same talents, but having to continually toe the line of political correctness and "market" himself. Prokofiev, while he mellowed in his later years, simply did not care what other people thought, and was not shy about saying what was on his mind. Paradoxically, he worked all his life to appease those who commissioned works from him, to say nothing of the powers that be in Soviet Russia. Robinson devotes much discussion to the ideological attacks of Stalin and Zhdanov in early 1948, after the composer's health was already in decline. Prokofiev's response, he writes, was "neither a complete apology, nor a statement of indignant rebellion.Read more ›
Robinson offers many insightful views of Prokofiev: "His music might be filled with 'wrong notes,' but it was resolutely tonal all the same; he might fill sonatas with dissonances and shocking rhythms, but he still called them sonatas and wanted them to be considered as such. He stretched the limits of traditional musical forms with a mischievous glee, much as he tested the patience of his teachers." "This frenetic level of activity seems to have been an attempt to avoid a confrontation with silence or his subconscious; he was never a particularly reflective individual." He also notes that "Unlike so many Russian composers before him, Prokofiev never wrote a single explicitly religious setting---no requiems, vespers, choruses or pieces of the Russian Orthodox liturgy." Considering his works for children, Robinson comments, that "he never forgot what it meant to be a child, and how children think, is evident in the playful but never condescending music he wrote for them."
"Beginning in the fall of 1909, Prokofiev was on his own as a composer: ... this was probably to Prokofiev's advantage, for his professors objected to that which was most original about his music." However, he avoided "movements" or "styles" in music: "he avoided joining any circles or identifying himself with any movements." In 1914, "He was still a bad boy, but a brilliant and assured one.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Thoroughly researched, well written, concise and to the point, full of facinating details -- this is a masterly biography of Prokofiev. Read morePublished on July 18, 2008 by R. G. W. Brown
Sergei Prokofiev: A Biography by Harlow Robinson (Professor of Modern Languages and History, Northeastern University) is an exhaustive, detailed, scholarly, and documented account... Read morePublished on August 9, 2002 by Midwest Book Review