“Well, right now I am working on a symphonic suite of waltzes, which will include three waltzes from Cinderella, two waltzes from War and Peace and one waltz from the movie score Lermontov. The War and Peace has just been brilliantly produced in Leningrad, where the composer Cheshko made an especially noteworthy appearance as a tenor, giving a superb performance in the role of Pierre Bezukhov. Besides this suite, I am working on a sonata for violin and piano [No. 1 in F minor], upon completion of which I will resume work on the Sixth Symphony, which I had started last year. I have just completed three suites from the Cinderella ballet and I am now turning the score over to copyists for writing the parts, so that most likely the suites will already be performed at the beginning of the fall season”
The above quote from 1946 gives us a wonderful insight into the workaholic Prokofiev’s mind. At the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on 9th April, I will be exploring the background to Prokofiev’s Cinderella, written in the grand fairy-tale tradition of the great Tchaikovsky ballets. You can find details of the event and booking information here.
We will set the ballet in its historical context, looking at Prokofiev’s return to Russia in 1935 and what this meant musically to an artist used to working in the liberal environment of Paris and the USA.
Cinderella was written during World War II, a surprisingly productive period for Prokofiev. Other works from this period include one of his best-loved symphonies, no. 5, the film score to Ivan the Terrible and the epic opera on Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Prokofiev became almost obsessive about this opera, and it eventually brought him into conflict with Stalin’s notorious culture minister, Zhdanov.
In the morning we will look at the first part of Prokofiev’s career, prior to taking a closer look at the 4th Piano Concerto, which the RSNO will play with Alexander Lazarev and Nikolai Lugansky in the same programme as Cinderella.
This rarely performed concerto was one of several commissioned from prominent composers of the time by Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in World War I. Neither he nor Prokofiev was particularly well-versed in social etiquette, which led to some frank exchanges between the two men! You can read more on Wittgenstein in Manus Carey’s article on the RSNO Website.
Come along to the Usher Hall on 9th April to find out more and to welcome our special guests from Scottish Ballet, music director Richard Honner and Chief Executive and Artistic Director Chris Hampson, fresh from their winter production of Cinderella.
Oh, and don’t forget to buy your tickets to hear Lazarev and Lugansky perform these great works in Edinburgh (15th April) and Glasgow (16th April)!