Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sergei Prokofiev and Alexander Nevsky

In 1938 Sergei Prokofiev (Сергей Сергеевич Прокофьев) collaborated with film director Sergei Eisenstein(Цергей Михайлович Зйзенштейч) to write music for the film Alexander Nevsky, depicting the historic battle(s) between the Russians and the Teutonic Knights. The film was much a success along with the music. Later after the film was released Sergei Prokofiev made the score into a cantata, basically a vocal piece with instrumental accompaniment in this case orchestra. The soundtrack recently was re-recorded and the film was given a face lift also. I include what I feel are two of the most powerful movements of the cantata. They are shown with the orignial scenes of the movie.

The historic "Battle on the Ice," also known as the "Battle on Peipus."
To me in the beginning it sounds like a train! The music gives a mood of an impending clash of forces, and once the choir enters the music is almost pure energy. A side note, some of the words in the cantata are written in what is belived to be a "fake latin," some believe this is a personal jab Prokofiev is making at Igor Stravinsky (fellow Russian composer of The Rite of Spring and The Firebird), for leaving Russia and essentially not coming back.

This is perhaps the most touching movement in the entire cantata. To me it was explained as a mother or woman searching for her loved one among the dead. The lyrics are:

I shall go across the show-clad field,
I shall fly above the field of death.
I shall search for valiant warriors,
my betrothed, my stalwart youths.
Here lies one felled by a wild saber;
there lies one impaled by an arrow.
From their wounds blood fell like rain
on our native soil, on our Russian fields.

The choir in this instances is all male and begins with almost a shimmer of sound, before taking on the tone of anguish, which then leads into the alto solo.

Thanks for reading if you did! Stephan A. Fillare

1 comment:

Dr. Michael A. Denner said...

excellent... i love prokofiev!