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Thursday, 25 March 2021, 6:00PM - 7:00PM
Online Lecture

Russian Piano Masterpieces: Prokofiev

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker FBA, Peter Donohoe CBE

Prokofiev followed in the footsteps of Rachmaninov and Scriabin as a joint graduate in piano and composition, but his final graduation performance made an even greater splash, since he dared to present his own new modernist Piano Concerto (No.1) before his examiners. This distinguished panel of judges had cultivated nationalist and late-romantic styles in their own music, and they were not well pleased by the work of a self-declared “anti-Romantic” who delighted in harsh, provocative dissonances that called for a new manner of playing that was metronomic rather than flexibly expressive, with a drier, more percussive approach. When Prokofiev moved abroad after the Revolution, his brilliant performances of his own works made a deep impression on a wide range of composers, from Rachmaninov to Stravinsky, and French composers from Ravel to Poulenc. 

It seemed that Prokofiev had invented a way of making music that matched the new era: its dynamism was compared to sport (“football music”), and its grinding repeated patterns to industrial sounds (“machine music”). The prime exhibit in this lecture is Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata, a masterwork in which his youthful provocations meet the perfectionism of the mature and experienced artist. The sonata also reveals the warm lyricism that is a crucial facet of Prokofiev’s art, but which is often overlooked, since it seems at odds with his modernism.


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Marina Frolova-Walker is Gresham Professor of Music. She is a Russian-born British musicologist and music historian. She is Professor of Music History and Director of Studies in Music at Clare College, Cambridge. 

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker is a specialist in the Russian music of the 19th and 20th centuries. She has published extensively on Russian music and is a well-known lecturer and broadcaster for BBC Radio 3. Among her many awards and appointments, she is a Fellow of the British Academy and was awarded the Edward Dent Medal in 2015 by the Royal Musical Association for her achievements in musicology. 

She was appointed as Visiting Gresham Professor of Russian Music in 2018-19. 

You can find more information on Marina and her research interests here: https://www.marinafrolova-walker.com/

Professor Frolova-Walker's lecture series are as follows:

2020/21 Russian Piano Masterpieces

2019/20 Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes

2018/19 Russian Opera and the State (as Visiting Gresham Professor of Russian Music)

All lectures by the Gresham Professors of Music can be accessed here.

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Peter Donohoe CBE is one of Britain’s foremost pianists, whose international career was launched by his success at the 1982 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Since then, he has performed at the world’s major venues, including the Hollywood Bowl, the Sydney Opera House and the Teatro Colón, collaborating with conductors such as Simon Rattle, Yevgeni Svetlanov and Gustavo Dudamel, and he has appeared at the BBC Proms a remarkable twenty-two times. 

In the course of his forty-year career, Russian music has always been at the core of his huge repertoire. His highly acclaimed recordings include all the Tchaikovsky concertos, all the Scriabin sonatas, all the Rachmaninov preludes, all the Prokofiev sonatas, Stravinsky’s music for piano solo and with orchestra, and all the Shostakovich sonatas, concertos and preludes and fugues.

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