Sergei Prokofiev

Bucharest, Editura Didactică și Pedagogică, 2012

Florinela Popa


       The present review examines the first Romanian monograph dedicated to Sergei Prokofiev, a volume signed by Florinela Popa and recently edited in the frame of the collection Muzica viva (Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică). Of course, interest grows according to the popularity of the great composer and continues its rise in the international musical life of our century. The only existing pieces of information were reflected in the autobiographical pages published circumstantially a few decades ago, information that was just partially edifying for understanding the personality and creation of the great musician. A thorough study on this subject, with extensive research and bibliography, lies at the basis of this monograph. Florinela Popa’s research is complex, matching the diversity of Prokofiev’s compositions, with major achievements in various genres and featuring a chronology which doesn’t respect rules, following paths of success, uncertainty and late acknowledgement that lead us from chamber to concert music, from symphonic and vocal-orchestral music to opera, from ballet to film.
       A pianist taught by the masters of the Russian school, with a successful international career, Prokofiev had the misfortune of finding his place in history between the last years of the nineteenth century and the first years of the second half of the twentieth century, enduring social unrest, the aggression of the Russian Revolution, the disaster of the two World Wars, the Stalinist political terror, each event leaving its mark. Therefore, an existence devoid of peace, characterized by a state of anxiety typical of the Soviet communist regime during his adulthood and the emotional inadequacy to the Western world, withstanding the political confrontations of the epoch, on each side of the Iron Curtain.
       Florinela Popa expressively narrates his existential adventure, scanning the musician’s path, as performer and creator, in a survey of knowledge explained in conjunction with his composing work. The combining flow of the analyst, documentarist and a scholar help build a passionate and convincing discourse, sometimes with emotional or sentimental nuances as a development of the narrative. Not often an author combines so naturally the oeuvre and life events, both projected into the images of the epoch. Although the musicological observations are brief, the complexity of the creation process suggests defining his personality through the detail of notes on a certain score, observations unprejudiced by ideology. The reader is impressed by the mosaic of this hardly bearable destiny that left deep marks on his psyche or moral and aesthetic conceptions, eloquently underlined by Florinela Popa. A personal and professional construction of the narrative, on multiple directions, leads us through a bibliography that justifies its usefulness, in the process of discovering the production of this great artist of his time, victim of politics and history.  
       The succession of chapters enables us to imagine a cinematic scenario in which sequences ensue in a tempo with various, yet corresponding cadences. Whoever has the curiosity to read, as the author of this review did, the last lines of Florinela Popa’s book, the words at the very end of the volume, as a conclusion of the entire monographic endeavour, finds out that ”Prokofiev, one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century, still has plenty to say”.
       The reader feels obliged, after this encouragement, to scan the entire text, starting from the first page, following the composer’s confessions, selected from Autobiography, but also other notes by witnesses, from writings previous to this volume. If the reader will react to the proposed focuses, he or she will understand – beyond the aesthetic, artistic or tragic dimension – why the author chose to quote a lyric by Ostrovski referring to Prokofiev: “One doesn’t die of happiness…

Grigore Constantinescu
(English Version by Simina Neagu)