Doctor of Musical Arts
This monograph presents a study of Sergei Prokofiev’s piano transcriptions connected with the ballets Romeo and Juliet (1935-36) and Cinderella (1940-44). It is primarily concerned with the ways in which Prokofiev’s circumstances as an artist working in the Soviet Union inhibited his creative freedom, particularly with respect to his late ballets, and how these circumstances motivated him to compose piano transcriptions as an alternate outlet for his work. To fully explore this idea, this thesis analyzes four particular transcriptions and the ways in which they are musically distinct from their ballet counterparts. Chapter 1 focuses on Prokofiev’s 1936 return to the Soviet Union, after having spent nearly two decades in the West. This provides context for the artistic frustrations which quickly came to define Prokofiev’s later years, and establishes an impetus for the proliferation of piano transcriptions composed in his Soviet period. Chapter 2 is concerned with the ballet Romeo and Juliet, providing an overview of the political and musical factors which shaped its outcome. This chapter also contains an analysis of the final movement from Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 75, “Romeo and Juliet Before Parting.” Chapter 3 focuses on Prokofiev’s next ballet, Cinderella, highlighting the factors which influenced another three sets of piano transcriptions. This chapter contains detailed analyses of three transcriptions from Cinderella, “Pavane,” Op. 95, “Gavotte,” Op. 95, and “Amoroso,” Op. 102, each of which illustrates a unique musical distinction from its ballet counterpart. Chapter 4 establishes connections between Prokofiev’s compositional practices, his artistic beliefs, and the material presented in previous chapters, with an emphasis on how his approach relates to other great pianist-composers, such as Liszt and Busoni. Chapter 5 reflects on the previous chapters from both musicological and performance perspectives, and suggests avenues for future research.
Summary for Lay Audience
This monograph presents a study of Sergei Prokofiev’s piano transcriptions connected with the ballets Romeo and Juliet (1935-36) and Cinderella (1940-44). Although they are now considered two of the composer’s finest achievements, both ballets suffered significant delays, censorship, and revisions as a result of Soviet cultural pressures. This monograph argues that these artistic frustrations were a major factor in Prokofiev’s decision to arrange his ballet music for solo piano. These piano arrangements, or transcriptions, are musically distinct from their ballet counterparts in several ways. This monograph provides detailed analyses of four particular transcriptions, each of which reflects a notable change from its ballet counterpart. The transcriptions analyzed include one from Romeo and Juliet; “Romeo and Juliet Before Parting,” and three from Cinderella; “Pavane,” “Gavotte,” and “Amoroso.” Considering the challenges Prokofiev faced while composing the ballets, and the ways in which the piano transcriptions are musically unique from their ballet versions, this monograph argues that the piano transcriptions offer a unique insight into Prokofiev’s musical vision, one which could not be fully realized in the ballets alone. To support this claim, this monograph explores the relationships between Prokofiev’s compositional practices, his artistic beliefs, and the circumstances surrounding Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella and their subsequent piano transcriptions. The monograph concludes with a reflection on the connections made and how they can influence performers and musicologists alike, followed by a few suggestions for future research.
O'Kane, Connor, "Prokofiev and the Soviet Dilemma: Censorship, Autonomy, and the Piano Transcriptions" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9197.