Sergei Prokofiev died 70 years ago today, overshadowed by the death of Joseph Stalin, who had banned much of his work. But Prokofiev’s brilliant musical compositions have outlived him and still sound fresh and exciting to modern listeners.
Simon Behrman is the author of Shostakovich: Socialism, Stalin & Symphonies.
The story of classical music is inseparable from the rise of capitalism. The new system made a musical revolution possible, but its crisis-ridden development then drove a wedge between musicians and their audience, leaving behind a frozen tradition.
Performed in a city under siege, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony symbolized popular resistance to the Nazi invasion. A complex work with several layers of political meaning, the symphony was a high point of twentieth-century classical music.
250 years after his birth, Beethoven’s music still has an exhilarating, subversive power. His revolution of artistic form was intimately linked to his sympathy for the political revolutions of his time.