Tag Archives: Composers

Who Knew????

THE FIERY ANGEL Prokofiev

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.

Sources

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

 

 

 

 

 

Prokofiev: A Surprising Commission

PROKOFIEV

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….”cropped-east-windies-logo-small-jpg3

Anton Reicha (1770 – 1836)

cropped-east-windies-logo-small-jpg3.pngAnton ReichaFriend of Beethoven, teacher of Lizst and Berlioz (among others of note), and childhood runaway: Anton Reicha succeeded in the 18th c music world of Vienna and Paris as prolific composer, music-educator and academic scholar.  Most famously, in Paris he consciously strove to establish the new wind quintet genre—to which end he contributed an astonishing 24 Quintets.   More on Reicha in subsequent posts:   we will be following his music (and that of Franz Danzi, a contemporary) over the next few months.
Image Search:  Anton Reicha.  “Anton Reicha:  Biography-Classic Cat”.  http://www.classicat.net. 5.4.2016