It’s a terrier’s world, we just live in it

Chopin’s Dog

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The Prokofiev diaries, first of all, are totally riveting. Although the composer could be drearily self-centered – what genius isn’t? – he sharply observed the world around him and his prose has considerable flair. This volume cover the years 1915 to 1923, when Prokofiev witnessed the Russian Revolution, tried his fortunes in America, and wound up in the Russian émigré community in Paris. Here are two quick teasers. First, from the end of 1917:

The month’s end passed in transcribing Seven, They Are Seven and contemplation of an engrossing new idea: Lina Collini mentioned in passing one day that she was planning to leave Russia for America – and it suddenly struck me that there was no need for me to stay in Russia either. In the flow of idle chatter this tiny spark was seemingly extinguished almost at once, but in fact what appeared at the time to be no more than a passing remark proved to be explosive material that in an instant flared up into a conflagration. To go to America! Of course! Here was wretchedness; there life brimming over. Here, slaughter and barbaric rhetoric; there, cultivated life. Here, shabby concerts in Kislovodsk; there, New York, Chicago! No time for hesitation. In the spring I will go. If only America does not turn against a Russia that has now abandoned the war! Such was the flag under which I greeted the New Year. Surely it will not disappoint my hopes?

Some months later, in San Francisco, Prokofiev finds himself under interrogation from American immigration authorities:

“What is this?”
“Did you write it yourself?”
“I did, on board ship.”
“Can you play it?”
“I can.”
“Play it, then.”

On the piano in the ship’s saloon, I played the main theme of the Violin Sonata on its own, without accompaniment. It was not appreciated.

“Can you play Chopin?”
“What would you like me to play?”
“The Funeral March.”

I played four bars. The official evidently enjoyed it.

“Very good,” he said, with feeling.
“Did you know for whose death it was composed?”
“His dog’s.”

Alex Ross. From his blog The Rest Is Noise


Written by aterrier

June 30, 2008 at 7:12 am

Posted in music

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One Response

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  1. Chopin is my favorite pianist of all time, without a doubt. But I didn’t really pickup on the Chopin reference in that cartoon…

    Van Diesel

    October 1, 2008 at 8:50 pm

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