March 01, 2003

A Single-Minded Man

If one were to strip Sergei Prokofiev of his music and consider the rest of his life, there would not be much left. Like millions of his compatriots, he was an ordinary man, not a fighter. Closing his eyes to the brutal totalitarian dictatorship of the Soviet regime, he accommodated its political demands and stuck to his sole passion in life: music. In fact, we could put him down for his aloofness even to the point of calling him a self-centered egotist, especially in his youth.

The young Prokofiev had a lot of gall. While 25, he wrote his First Symphony, and called it “Classical.” The meaning was two-fold: the symphony imitated “Papa Haydn,” and therefore could be called “Classical,” because of its use of the classical model. But there was also the second meaning, as Prokofiev himself later confessed: he was hoping that the symphony would become a “classic.”

Remarkably, it did, his chutzpah notwithstanding (or maybe because of it).

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