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“Prokofiev: The Unfinished Diary” is an excellent, albeit brief
documentary released by the KULTUR label in 2008. It chronicles
the years between 1918 and 1936, when Sergei Prokofiev
(1891-1953) lived outside of Russia in America and Europe,
in an attempt to maintain a career as a successful composer.
This story is told via recent interviews with his son, Svyatoslav
(1924-2010) and grandson, Serge, along with other authorities,
including the curator of the Prokofiev archive, Noëlle Mann
(1947-2010), and one of his biographers, Princeton University
professor Simon Morrison. Svyatoslav restored the Prokofiev’s
diaries by deciphering his father’s Russian “shorthand,” and then
copying them by hand. Photos and newsreel footage helped
to further this narrative, and the composer’s music is played
throughout, including excerpts from his popular
“Third Piano Concerto.”

After an initial taste of success in the United States, this film
painted a picture of a man who eventually found his works out
of favor in Paris, where the musical climate during the 1920’s
was at odds with his artistic endeavors. Based upon his diary
entries, the scholars interviewed for this film described him as
“…a difficult, impetuous person…a loner…” Unfortunately, he
was somewhat “hoodwinked” into believing that his artistic
life would be better in Russia, and he returned there in 1936,
during the height of Stalin’s purges. He would learn the error
of this choice and as the saying goes, “The rest is history.”

This 52-minute DVD provides insight into the thoughts and
history of one of the greatest composers of the first half of
the 20th Century. Much of the narrative for this documentary
is provided by Prokofiev’s diary, covering much of his period of
exile from Russia. Narrator Richard Clarkin read these entries as a
voice-over accompaniment to the film.

It was noted that Prokofiev stopped writing diary entries in 1933,
and returned to Russia three years later. Sadly, the promises
made to him were not kept upon his return. Nevertheless,
there was some discussion of the works he completed during
the aforementioned exile period, including “The Love for Three
Oranges,” “The Fiery Angel” and the ballet, “Chout.” I was
intrigued to learn that Prokofiev embraced the Christian Science
religion, thereby making it quite difficult for him to complete
“The Fiery Angel.”

A lot of information was packed into this short documentary,
and I felt it was a shame that this film was not longer. However,
I believe the producers of this documentary did a great job
within this short running time. I learned a lot, and
recommend it highly.