Prokofiev and Stravinsky

At once an innovator who delighted to offend and a traditionalist who hankered afer simler, clearer melodies, Sergei Prokofiev is less easily pigeon-holed than his great Russian contemporary, Igor Stravinsky, the assured, cosmopolitan, Picasso-like figure of 20th-century mkusc. He and Stravinsky were friends of a sort, but the relationship was never an easy one although it endured for thirty years, beginning with Prokofiev's first concert in St. Petersburg, December 1908. (The two only lost direct contact in the late 1930s after Prokofiev's permanent return to Russia.) Stravinsky professed to find Prokofiev talented but superficial, "astonishingly naive in matters of musical construction". Nor did Stravinsky ever stop speaking badly about the work of his younger colleague. As for Prokofiev's rapprochement with Moscow (in part, surely, his conscious/unconscious means of escape from a blind alley of Stravinsky-smulation), Igor had it marked down as "a sacrifice to the bitch goddes, and nothing else". For his part, Prokofiev's undying admiration wilted a little as the vigorous national colour of sk's Le Sacre du printemps and Les Noces gave way to the cooler, less engaged style we find in such works as the Violin Concerto: "The music is Bach but with pockmarks", Prokofiev fumed. Even so, for as long as both men were free to travel, they might still meet for an exchange of indecent stories over dinner, each influencing the musical perceptions of the other to some degree.

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Created: August 12, 1997