Edited and translated by Anthony Phillips
Foreword by Sviatoslav Prokofiev
Sergey Prokofiev, a compulsive diarist and gifted and idiosyncratic writer, possessed an incorrigibly sardonic curiosity about individuals and events. When he left Russia after the 1917 Revolution, his diaries were recovered from the family flat in Petrograd and later hidden at considerable personal risk by the composer Nikolai Myaskovsky. Prokofiev himself smuggled them out of the country after his first return to the Soviet Union in 1927. The later diaries, written in the West, were brought back by legal decree after the composer's death in 1953, to be kept in an inaccessible section of the Soviet State Archive. Eventually Prokofiev's son Sviatoslav was allowed to transcribe the voluminous contents. When he and his son Sergei eventually emigrated to Paris, they undertook the gigantic task of reproducing the partially encoded manuscript in an intelligible form.
Diaries, 1907-1914, the first of three volumes that extend to 1933, covers Prokofiev's years at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire. Simultaneously attached to and exasperated by the tradition exemplified by composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, and Tcherepnin, the brash young genius relishes the power of his talent to irritate, challenge, and finally overcome the establishment. In candid and lively prose, he records the all-too-normal preoccupations of a young man making his way in the brilliant social and artistic circles of the prewar Russian capital. Virtually every artist and musician of note appears in these pages, in penetrating and not always flattering vignettes. Prokofiev's main subject, however, is music, its creation and its performance. He reveals his own developing aesthetic principles through his assessments of the works of others, even as he composes such early masterpieces as the First and Second Piano Concertos, The Ugly Duckling, the First Violin Concerto, and the Classical Symphony.
An inexhaustibly rich portrait of a vibrant artistic culture on the edge of war and revolution, Prokofiev's Diaries are both a dramatic illumination of a great composer's creativity and an indispensable contribution to our understanding of musical modernism. They constitute an essential and entertaining reference for all lovers of Prokofiev's music.