The 5th. of March was the 60th. anniversary of the death of the great Prokofiev, and Simon Morrison's biography The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev: The Story of Lina and Serge Prokofiev arrived in the post that day. It is to be Radio 4's Book of the Week from 25th. to 29th. March, so listen for it then, for if you are a lover of Prokofiev's music - as I am - then this account of his life will be a must.
It includes fascinating insights into and a detailed description of how Serge Prokofiev actually composed, and among the source material Simon Morrison, Professor of Music History at Princeton, consulted for the book are over six hundred intimate personal letters from the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art in Moscow, documents hitherto unseen, access to which was granted by the Prokofiev estate.
But the composer is not the sole focus of this biography for at its heart is the woman who gave up her career for the brilliant man she married:
"Lina Prokofiev was alone in her Moscow apartment one night when the telephone rang. The caller insisted that she come downstairs to collect a parcel, but when she reached the courtyard she was arrested.
Born in Madrid to a Russian-born soprano and a Spanish tenor, Lina had spent much of her youth in Brooklyn. It was while working as a secretary, hoping to build her own singing career, that she met the young pianist and composer Serge Prokofiev. Although her mother warned her against him, their relationship evolved in the full glare of the media.
In 1936 the couple was enticed back to the Soviet Union with the promise of artistic and personal freedom. The assurances proved false, and when Serge later abandoned Lina she found herself trapped in the country, struggling to support their two sons through one of the darkest periods of Soviet history.
Unfolding with the intrigue of a spy novel, the book traces this largely untold story, from the moment Lina fell in love with a rising star to her experiences in the Gulag after she received that fateful telephone call."