Jim Tobin replies to me:
>>Prokofiev's stock has declined as Shostakovich's has risen. In
>>recent years, one notes a tendency among writers to patronize him as a
>>shallow, though musical petite maitre, a psychological lightweight.
>Stravinsky tended to look down on him too, as I understand. But
>Prokofiev had a tremendous stylistic range, a distinctive voice, melodic
>and rhythmic inventiveness, and his tonality, if fairly traditional, was
>yet fresh and pungent. I consider him one of the best composers of the
I agree. I'm at a loss to understand the decline of his reputation.
I also think Shostakovich a great composer, but I don't see the need
to run Prokofiev down in order to praise Shostakovich. It's almost as
if people can hold in their heads only one modern Russian composer at
>>The seventh [sonata] - the most widely-played -is the most direct, the
>>most efficient, saying the most in as few notes as possible. It's also
>>the starkest and most aggressively Modern of the three. The first
>>movement is as tonally untethered as Prokofiev ever got, but the rhythms
>>are strong to the point of brutality.... [The] last movement [of] the
>>seventh... though undoubtedly powerful - always smacks to me of agitprop
>>and bravado, possibly because Prokofiev attacks the material so
>Not sure why you want to say that about the finale, Steve. It's opening
>strikes me as jazzy, not a quality I'd think of as agitprop.
It's the near-relentless insistance on that opening idea, I guess. I
agree it's jazzy, even exciting. But it's not psychologically layered,
as the eighth is.