This week was full of listening to the music of Prokofiev, for I am doing a presentation on his life and music for another class. Never hurts to kill two birds with one stone. Anyways, Prokofiev’s musical maturation process was different that most composers; he went from the more experimental music to composing within many of the confines of classical music. Within this analysis though, it is important to note the influence of Stalin’s regime over the arts. In an effort to control the creative processes, they accused Prokofiev of “excessive formalism,” which is essentially not appealing to a wide enough audience. Due to this, Prokofiev was forced to compose music that incorporated more of the style characteristics of the “simpler” classical music.
One of the main pieces that I listened to was his Symphony No. 1, which is also known as the “Classical” symphony. It is marked by typical classical form and structural elements. For example, the first movement is in sonata allegro form. It also is very triadic and the harmonies are often presented in a similar way that a classical symphony would (a.k.a. Alberti bass). It is performed by a typical classical symphony orchestra, which includes strings, percussion, and two of each of the major wind instruments.
It is interesting to compare this with his music for the opera The Love for Three Oranges. The march from this opera contains the rhythmic simplicity of Symphony No. 1. During this time, other composers were tending to use complex meters and rhythms, however Prokofiev generally stayed away from this trend. This piece displays trends consistent with Prokofiev such as rhythmic intensity, larger intervals sizes in parts of the melody, and a relatively simple form.
It has been interesting to study Prokofiev and all of the influences, both external and internal, that have played a role in the creation of his music. It will be interesting to see what the next 50 years bring to classical music and to the music of Prokofiev.