Not many classical composers are known for their religious inclinations, including any general awareness of Prokofiev’s penchant for Christian Science: A vaguely Protestant, cultish religion developed in the USA by Mary Baker Eddy and her published text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875). His diary indicates that from about 1924 both Prokofiev and his wife Lina followed Christian Science principles, particularly the tenet that sickness was an illusion. Meditation around this tenet had a calming effect.
But, did it affect his music? Sources claim that it did. He heavily condemned his own opera The Fiery Angel for its moral heresy, for example, and subsequently wrote mainly of characters with high moral virtues and a spiritual attitude.
Fortunately all his confusion between spiritual urges and sensual text occurred well after the creation of Overture on Hebrew Themes (1919) in New York. That many (reform-progressive) Jews promoted Christian Science in the late 19th century, suggests the Overture never provoked spiritual condemnation from its composer,
Prokofiev left America in 1920 for life in Paris (and later a short stay in Bavaria, where he wrote the “heretical” Fiery Angel). He returned permanently to Russia in 1936.
As for Christian Science, he remained convinced of the faith for the rest of his life.
Journal of Religion and Society, Vol 15 (2013). Rolf Swensen, “Israel’s Return to Zion” – Jewish Christian Scientists in the United States, 1880 – 1925.
Bathtub Bulletin (July 19, 2017). Mike Zonta. Prokofiev the Christian Scientist (Search-for-emes.blogspot.com). Accessed 10.1.2018.
Wikipedia. Sergei Prokofiev. Accessed 10.1.2018
Wikipedia. Overture on Hebrew Themes. Accessed 10.1.2018
The Russian émigré ensemble Zimro approached Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953) during his USA period with a commission and a book of Jewish folk tunes for guidance! The result was a charming sextet with Klezmer influences: Overture on Hebrew Themes opus 34 (1919), for clarinet, piano and string quartet. It was premiered in New York City in 1920, with Prokofiev as guest pianist. The Overture was later grudgingly transcribed for chamber orchestra (1934): “I don’t understand what sort of obtuse people could have found it necessary to reorchestrate….”
Carl Nielsen grew up in the village of Norre Lyndelse, south of Odense on the Island of Funen, Denmark.
Nielsen’s Funen home, now a museum
East Windies Players begin 2017 by embarking on 20th Century music with Carl Nielsen’s famous Wind Quintet Op 43. Here is some generic info about Nielsen (for starters):
Carl Nielsen age 14, 16th Battalion, Odense
- Denmark’s most prominent composer (orchestral and chamber music)
- Works are organized by CNW (Carl Nielsen Works) numbers
- Generally well-received during his lifetime, although his 5th Symphony was described by one critic as:
“Filthy music from [the] trenches” and “Bloody, clenched fist in the face of an unsuspecting snob audience.”
Nielsen’s Wind Quintet Op 43 (1922)
- Written specifically for members of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet
- Opus 43 has become a major “staple” of the modern wind quintet repertoire
- Structure: 3 movements a) Allegro b) Minuet c) Prelude/Theme & Variations.
- Variation theme based on Nielsen’s melody for his hymn:
- “My Jesus Let my heart receive“
- Performed at Nielsen’s funeral in 1931
- Influenced by song; background interest in folk music
- Energetic rhythms and generous orchestration
- Ambiguous re: late Romanticism and nationalistic theme
- Raised in modest circumstances on Island of Funen
- Father worked as a house painter and occasional musician (played “fiddle” and cornet)
- Played violin (at first self-taught/age 6) and bugle/trombone; Joined army band age 14 (16th Battalion near Odense)
- Played in the Violin 2 section, Royal Danish Orchestra (1889 – 1805)
- Tempestuous marriage (open relationship) to Danish sculptor, Anne Marie Broderson (1891)
- Fathered five children (only 3 with Anne Marie)
- Died of heart attack, age 66.
Guilio Briccialdi (1818-1881)
19th century Italian flute virtuoso; dubbed “Paganini of the flute”
Born in Terni Italy, later moved to Rome
Selected a musical career over the priesthood (his family’s preference)
First appointment: Academia di Santa Cecilia Rome, age 17
Flute teacher to the king’s brother
Director of Rudall and Rose (instrument makers): made mechanical innovations still used today
1870 Professor of Flute, Florence Conservatoire
Wrote three wind quintets: Bb major, Series 10, nos 2 & 3; and D major, Op 124
His many other compositions were mostly for flute and piano, one of the better known being Il Carnevale di Venezia
Titled “Galerie des compositeurs dramatiques modernes“, this charming postcard was created by French lithographer Nicolas Eustache Maurin (1799-1850). It depicts the leading composers working in Paris at mid-19th century. Featured, among others, are GEORGE ONSLOW (back row, 3rd from left), HECTOR BERLIOZ (back row, far left), FELIX MENDELSSOHN (back row 2nd from right), and GIOCOMO MEYERBEER (front row, 2nd from left?). It was published in the French music journal, Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris in 1844: A weekly journal owned and produced by music publisher Maurice Schlesinger. The journal featured articles about music by such notables as: Franz Liszt, Georges Sand, Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner. In a supplementary issue, the Revue published a collection of hundreds of signatures of “compositeurs“. Gorge Onslow’s appears on page 11 (middle – lower page).