The secret diaries of Sergey Prokofiev
Russia's revolution coincided with a blossoming of musical talent. Sergey Prokofiev's extraordinary diaries, to be published next week, show the composer at the centre of both
It's 16 December 1922. Sergey Prokofiev receives a letter informing him that the trunk of precious papers and manuscripts he had packed up for safekeeping in the vaults of a publishing company upon his rushed departure from Russia in May 1918 has been lost. In it were the score of the Second Piano Concerto, a sheaf of childhood compositions, the notebook containing his diary between September 1916 and February 1917, photographs, letters to his father and records of his beloved chess tournaments. "But most of all I mourn the loss of the Diary," writes the composer. "The loss of the Diary is a tragedy, as there was so much of interest in it: it was my last winter in Petrograd which saw the production of The Gambler and a general flowering of my talent." He goes on to recall the professional tribulations, love affairs and squabbles contained in its pages, raging against the "scoundrels" who failed to ensure its safekeeping.
As it turns out, Prokofiev's rage was misplaced and, though he would not discover it until 1927 when he returned to the USSR, the diary had been preserved. And now it is published for the first time in English translation. The diaries were seized by the Soviet government on the composer's death and hidden in the state archives for years until Prokofiev's son Sviatoslav and grandson Serge were granted permission to transcribe them – no easy task, as the thousands of pages were almost all written in the composer's vowel-less shorthand.
Read the complete extract from from Sergey Prokofiev: Diaries 1915-1923: Behind the Mask, edited by Anthony Phillips at The Independent website: