Friday, March 6, 2015

Sergei Prokofiev's faith

What do "Peter and the Wolf" and the Christian Science Hymnal have in common? The famous children's story is based on a symphony written by Sergei Prokofiev, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.  Prokofiev graduated from St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1914, and became a surprisingly religious composer of symphonies, concerti, operas and ballets. His choice of faith was Christian Science, and he wished he could compose new music for the hymnal.

Sergei Prokofiev at home in Paris

Encouraged by his wife Lina, he read Mary Baker Eddy's textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. His faith explains the stress on moral absolutes in his text-based musical works, and his preference for characters who believe in spiritual causes.

He finally resolved to attend church services, even though the music grated on his nerves. His son Sviatoslav remembers when his famous Dad took him to Sunday School at the church in Paris which they attended in the '20s and '30s. "We used to walk there, or sometimes drive in father's Chevrolet. The church looked quite secular, like a lecture hall in which readings for adults were given. Father criticized the music of the hymns and thought of composing them himself, but never realized this idea," he said. "While we were returning home, father would ask me questions or explain the obscure, or just keep silent, immersed in his own thoughts.

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