Composing for the Red Screen: Prokofiev and Soviet Film
Sound film captivated Sergey Prokofiev during the final two decades of his life: he considered composing for nearly two dozen pictures, eventually undertaking eight of them, all Soviet productions. Hollywood luminaries such as Gloria Swanson tempted him with commissions, and arguably more people heard his film music than his efforts in all other genres combined. Films for which Prokofiev composed, in particular those of Sergey Eisenstein, are now classics of world cinema. Drawing on newly available sources, Composing for the Red Screen examines—for the first time—the full extent of this prodigious cinematic career. Bartig examines how Prokofiev's film music derived from a self-imposed challenge: to compose "serious" music for a broad audience. The picture that emerges is of a composer seeking an individual film-music voice, shunning Hollywood models and objecting to his Soviet colleagues' ideologically expedient film songs. Looking at Prokofiev's film music as a whole—with well-known blockbusters like Alexander Nevsky considered alongside more obscure or aborted projects—reveals that there were multiple solutions to the challenge, each with varying degrees of success. Prokofiev carefully balanced his own populist agenda, the perceived aesthetic demands of the films themselves, and, later on, Soviet bureaucratic demands for accessibility.
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Aleksandr Nevskiy Aleksandrov Alexander Nevsky Alma-Ata Atovmyan audiences ballet Belgoskino Boris Cantata Chaikovsky’s Cinema Affairs collaboration Committee on Cinema composer composer’s concert Countess critical director Dnevnik Dobrenko edited Example Eyzenshteyna Fayntsimmer fil’mu film score film’s Gavriil Popov Gendelstein Glinka Herman historical Hollywood Ibid images Iskusstvo Ivan Grozn´y Ivan the Terrible Ivan’s kino Kizhe’s kompozitor Kotovsky later Leningrad Lermontov letter from Prokofiev Lieutenant Kizhe Liza March melody Mendelson MikhaÝl Moscow Mosfilm Muz´ka Nevsky’s noted opera oprichniki orchestral People’s Artist piano score played Popov Poruchik Pravda production Prokofiev’s music Prokofiev’s score Pskov Pushkin Queen of Spades recording RGALI f Rimsky-Korsakov Romm Romm’s Russian Music S. S. Prokof’yev scene screenplay Serge Prokofiev Sergei Eisenstein Sergey Sergeyevich Shostakovich Simon Morrison Socialist Realist song sound film soundtrack Sovetskiy Soviet Film Music Stalin Stalin Prize Stalinist studio Symphony theme T´nyanov Tonya Tsar Tsar’s University Press Vechernyaya Moskva visual Vladimir Volsky wartime