Wednesday, October 03, 2007

There are none so deaf as those that will not hear

So, as part of my quest to find things to do that might enable me to chuck in the day job, I'm writing programme notes for the next (GRATUITOUS PLUG ALERT) Kensington Symphony Orchestra concert , and I find myself thinking and reading about and listening to Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony. And what strikes me about a lot of the sources I've read is how they all seem to peddle the line that this is a happy work, with no sign of the turmoil of the times (it was written during the Second World War).

Now, maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but it seems obvious to me that this is a deeply ambiguous work, steeped in suggestions that not all is well (and, I suspect, not necessarily in relation to the war). Double meanings in the arts were endemic in Stalin's Russia, and that's what I hear in the ferocious bombast of much of this symphony. I expect to read positivist guff in "official" soviet articles and the like, but what about all those who've written the books, sleeve notes etc since? How can they seriously write that this is a piece that ends happily? Have any of them actually listened to it?

1 comment:

Erin said...

I don't remember the ending for Prokfiev 5, but the man in general has always struck me as so sad. It seemed like he truly was trying to do what the state wanted him to, but never understand why he still got in trouble. He seemed so sad towards the end of his life... it just seemed tragic.