Sergei Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky
Oxford University Press 2017
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in FilmNew Books in HistoryNew Books in MusicNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network January 29, 2018 Kristen Turner
Kevin Bartig’s new book Sergei Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky (Oxford University Press, 2017) explores multiple facets of one of the most famous film scores of the twentieth century, as well as the cantata Prokofiev adapted from the original music. Sergei Eisenstein’s classic film Alexander Nevsky, about a thirteenth-century Russian national hero who defeated the Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire, premiered in July 1938 in the Soviet Union amid rising tensions with Nazi Germany. While Eisenstein’s film was a propaganda piece designed to encourage Soviet patriotism at a time of growing fears about the Nazi regimes aggression, it is also one of the great motion pictures of the twentieth century because of its technical mastery and climactic half-hour Battle of the Ice scene. Using extensive archival sources, Bartig recounts the unusually close collaboration between Eisenstein and Prokofiev that produced the score, the investigates the music’s reception in Russia and abroad from its premiere until today, and explores questions raised by the connections between music and politics. Part of the Oxford University Press’s new Keynotes series, the relatively short book uses the close analysis of one work to examine Soviet cultural politics, the creation of film scores, the power of accessible music, and the afterlife of works of propaganda after their original contexts disappear.
Kevin Bartig is an associate professor of musicology at Michigan State University and specializes in music and culture in Eastern Europe and the US. He has received multiple grants and fellowships including awards from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. He was also a Lilly Teaching Fellow during the 2011-12 academic year. His publications include Composing for the Red Screen: Sergey Prokofiev and Soviet Film (Oxford University Press, 2013), as well as articles, reviews, and essays in several collected editions.
Kristen M. Turner, Ph.D. is a lecturer at North Carolina State University in the music department. Her work centers on American musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century and has been published in several journals and essay collections.