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Composing for the Red ScreenProkofiev and Soviet Film$
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Kevin Bartig

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199967599

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199967599.001.0001

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Ivan the Terrible and the Russian National Tradition

Ivan the Terrible and the Russian National Tradition

(p.132) 6 Ivan the Terrible and the Russian National Tradition
Composing for the Red Screen

Kevin Bartig

Oxford University Press

The chapter looks at Prokofiev's most complex film score, for Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible. The film's subject, a ruler celebrated for unifying the Russian state but condemned for the despotic means he used, had a rich treatment in nineteenth-century Russian music. Prokofiev drew on these musical precedents, and they both framed his conception of Ivan and furnished a reference point for his own score. Like his predecessors, Prokofiev musically portrays Ivan's state unification as an internal affair, rather than a geopolitical one. Although certainly not intentionally subversive, this aspect of Prokofiev's score was at odds with the official expectation that Ivan's foreign campaigns would receive pride of place. The chapter also shows that Eisenstein had far more ambitious goals for Prokofiev's score; he became convinced of a musical cue's power to function as an ersatz leitmotif, linking and juxtaposing disparate scenes to make narrative connections that are largely absent from the film's dialogue.

Keywords:   sergey eisenstein, ivan the terrible, mosfilm, nikolay rimsky-korsakov, levon atovmyan, leitmotifs, richard wagner, fergana canal

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