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Series I: Music Manuscripts, 1899-1953; 1970s
Series II: Personal Papers, 1911-1947
Series III: Published Scores, 1921-2011
Series V: Research Collection, 1917-2003
Series VI: Audio-Visual Collection, 1927-2012
Series VII: Photographs, 1891-1953
Series VIII: Newspaper Clippings, 1916-2000s
At a Glance
Material is arranged in ten series with several subseries.
Scope and Content
Serge Prokofiev (1891–1953) was a Russian and Soviet composer, pianist and conductor, and seminal figure in the history of twentieth-century music. The Serge Prokofiev Archive (SPA) contains 58 original music manuscripts and approximately 12,000 letters and documents primarily from 1918-1936, the years Prokofiev spent in the West. The SPA also includes an expansive collection of music manuscript copies, published scores, concert programs, scholarly books and articles, photographs, and audio and video material, making it the premier research collection for studying Prokofiev's life, work and legacy
Constituted in successive stages, this impressive collection was gathered by Prokofiev himself, members of his family, and individuals dedicated to the composer's oeuvre. The core consists of Prokofiev's compositions, writings and records from his prolonged stay in the West - mainly the United States, France, and Germany - from 1918 to 1936. It includes 58 manuscript scores, drafts, sketches and notes for works such as Symphony Nos. 3 and 4, his operas The Gambler and The Fiery Angel, the Concerto for Piano Nos. 4 and 5, the ballets Sur le Borysthène and Le Pas d'Acier, the Sonata for Two Violins and String Quartet No. 1. Prokofiev's personal and professional letters and documents from this period, totalling approximately 12,000 items, inlcude correspondence with conductors Albert Coates, Sir Henry Wood, Sergei Koussevitzky,Hermann Scherchen, and Ernest Ansermet; composers Igor Stravinsky and Nikolai Miaskovsky; directors Vsevolod Meyerhold and Alexander Tairov; Ballets Russes impresario Serge Diaghilev; and chess grandmaster Jose Capablanca. Prokofiev meticulously saved bills, accounts and legal papers concerning concerts in the United States, France, Italy, Spain, England, the Soviet Union, and Germany, as well as materials relating to the publication and copyright of his work.
When Prokofiev returned to Moscow in 1936, he took only those papers and manuscripts he judged necessary for his life in the Soviet Union. Everything else was left in the care of close Parisian friends and his publisher, Édition Russe de Musique. Most of this material was eventually deposited at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) in Paris, where it remained until 2013.
In the 1970s, Lina Prokofiev, the composer's first wife, left the Soviet Union and settled in the West. In the years that followed she devoted considerable energy to tracking down the composer's personal effects and papers and to promoting his legacy. She was able to access, and make photo and microfilm copies of, the Prokofiev material at the BnF. In 1983, she created The Serge Prokofiev Foundation. After Mme. Prokofiev's death in 1989, the musicologist Noëlle Mann continued this work, and in 1994 established the Serge Prokofiev Archive (SPA) at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
For nearly two decades, the SPA at Goldsmiths served as the authoritative research collection on Prokofiev in the West. It contained the copies of the Prokofiev materials at the BnF, as well as copies of other Prokofiev manuscripts, letters, photographs, and documents held in other repositories. The SPA gathered a vast collection of published material on Prokofiev, including some 500 scores (including many rare and first editions), nearly 500 concert programs, and over 400 books (mainly in English and Russian, but also in French and German), periodicals and articles on Prokofiev. The audiovisual collection contains almost 800 audio recordings on CD, LP and cassette, and 65 video/DVD recordings.
The Goldsmiths SPA also acquired archival material from the composer's family and devoted supporters. Lina Prokofiev donated her own personal archive, which includes materials gathered for a planned biography of her husband. Oleg Prokofiev, their younger son, donated material relating to his own work and to his father's music. Smaller archival collections added to the SPA archive include: the Georgii Gorchakov Collection, the Christopher Palmer Collection, the Lázár Collection, the Sir Edward Downes Collection, the Noëlle Mann Collection, and the Reberg Collection.
In 2013, the original Prokofiev material from the BnF and the Goldsmiths SPA were brought together to form one coherent collection, currently on deposit at the Rare Books and Manuscript Library at Columbia University.
The website of the Serge Prokofiev Foundation, www.sprkfv.net, contains further information about the life and works of the composer and the Archive. There is also information about the journal of the Prokofiev Foundation, Three Oranges, including some sample full-text articles, and information regarding subscriptions.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
The Serge Prokofiev Foundation Archive is accessed by arrangement with the Project Archivist for the Prokofiev Archive, Natalia Ermolaev, email: email@example.com; or the Performing Arts Curator, Jenny Lee, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 212-854-4048.
This collection is located on-site.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Serge Prokofiev Archive; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Additions are expected
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
The collection is being processed by Natalia Ermolaev, with assistance from Velia Ivanova, Michael Ossorgin, Jennifer Goslee, Vera Senina, Julia Khait, Milica Ilicic, Mark Saccomano, Rachael Lee, and input from Rita McAllister.
Finding aid written by Natalia Ermolaev, 2015-2017
2015-02-24 xml document instance created by Adrien Hilton
2019-03-29 Data adjusted to fit schema necessary for ArchivesSpace import kws
2019-03-29 Series numbers prepended to each box kws
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Serge Prokofiev was born in Sontsovka, in the Ukraine, in 1891. He played the piano and composed from an early age, and studied with Reinhold Gliere in the summers of 1902 and 1903. He attended the St Petersburg Conservatory from 1904 to 1914, and studied composition, conducting and piano, though his overwhelming desire to develop his own style often brought him into conflict with his teachers. He played his first public performance on 18 December 1908 in St Petersburg at one of the 'Evenings of Contemporary Music', premiered his first full compositions, and graduated in 1914, having won the coveted Anton Rubinstein Prize for the best student pianist. Following his graduation, Prokofiev travelled widely, performing his compositions in Paris, London and the USA. He composed in a wide range of musical genres, including symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets and film music, though the modern nature of his music often led to censure on the part of the music press of the time. He moved to Paris permanently in 1923, after his marriage to Lina Codina. Tours of Soviet Russia in 1927, 1929 and 1932 contributed towards Prokofiev's decision to return to his homeland permanently in 1936, joined by his wife and two children. He developed an intense interest in writing scores for film, beginning with Lieutenant Kizhe in 1933, and for the theatrical stage - Peter and the Wolf was written in 1936 and performed by the State Children's Theatre. He also composed ballets such as Romeo and Juliet, premiered in 1938. Though Prokofiev initially conformed to Soviet ideology, the limitations imposed upon his artistic freedom proved stifling, and he was soon forbidden permission to tour outside the Soviet Union. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, all senior cultural figures were evacuated from Moscow, including Prokofiev, whose wife and children were left behind for the duration of the war. Lina Prokofiev, being Spanish by birth, was later arrested (1948) and sent to a labour camp for 8 years. In the same year her marriage to Prokofiev was annulled by the state, after which Prokofiev married Mira Mendelson. His composition remained prolific, and the works created during the War proved to be some of his most successful, notably War and Peace, Cinderella, and his Fifth Symphony. Suffering from increasing ill-health, Prokofiev died on 5 March 1953 and was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.