SERGEI PROKOFIEV: A Biography by Harlow Robinson


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An issue- and event-driven version of the Russian composer's life. Other Prokofiev biographies have been contradictory and occasionally controversial. Russian musicologists give one set of reasons for the composer's European sojourns and return to the Soviet Union. Western musicologists are eager to argue opposite views. The composer's own autobiographical writing, done during Stalin's regime, is full of high-handed political sentiment and white lies. In his preface, Robinson writes: ""Strong and mysterious bonds linked Prokofiev's art to his personality and to his national identity."" To illustrate these bonds, he gives an overview of each influence's effect on Prokofiev's music. Robinson is not from the school of biography that hesitates to interpret or intrude. Nor is he shy in his use of adjectives. Or repetition. Robinson recapitulates his themes--sometimes right down to repeating the same words and phrases, as when he uses ""their romance intensified"" twice in six pages. On the plus side, he's familiar with his subject's entire musical output. He also goes easy on Prokofiev--tending to attribute the man's least likable traits to sentiment or naivetÉ, rather than selfishness. Describing one source, Robinson writes: ""It also conforms with the Soviet practice of biography, which, particularly in the case of cultural icons like Prokofiev, has always dow?played an artist's personal life and psychology, instead emphasizing the influence of social and political issues."" These are the worst defects of Robinson's own work.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Viking