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Thursday, 25 March 2021, 6:00PM - 7:00PM
LSO St Luke's

Russian Piano Masterpieces: Prokofiev

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker

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 a Visiting Professor of Russian Music at Gresham in 2018-19. 

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker said:

“I am honoured and excited to take up the position of 36th Gresham Professor of Music, and I am delighted to have such eminent predecessors as John Bull and Iannis Xenakis. Bringing knowledge about music to a broader public has always been one of my passions, and the work of several recent Professors of Music such as David Owen Norris and Roger Parker has been an inspiration for my own activities as a public lecturer. 

“My first lecture series features the artistic project of the Ballet Russes, brainchild of the great impresario Serge Diaghilev. Prior to Diaghilev, no one thought that ballet could be transformed into a provocatively modern art, a platform for cutting-edge experiments in music, choreography and design. The project had its roots in Diaghilev’s inspired marketing of “Russianness” in the Parisian arts world, and he continued to develop his ideas until his circle had become an international hotbed of artistic innovation. “Surprise me!”, Diaghilev would say to anyone with a new proposal, and he did indeed bring about a stream of artworks that still surprise and delight us today.” 

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

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

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