Serge Prokofiev Foundation Collections

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Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the acquisition of the collection of Russian composer Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953).  The Serge Prokofiev Foundation has chosen the RBML as the repository for the archival material under its control from Prokofiev’s 18 years in the West.

The Foundation was established in 1983 by Lina Prokofiev, the composer’s widow, to enrich public awareness of Prokofiev’s life and work and to encourage research. After her death in 1989 at age 91, and the death of her sons Sviatoslav and Oleg, the work of the Foundation has been carried on by their descendants.

The collection includes Prokofiev’s private and business papers from 1919 through May 1936, after which he returned to the Soviet Union with his family. Correspondents include conductors such as Albert Coates, Sir Henry Wood, Sergei Koussevitzky, Hermann Scherchen, and Ernest Ansermet; soloists Joseph Szigeti, Pablo Casals, Robert Soetens, and Fedor Chaliapin; composers Igor Stravinsky, Nikolai Miaskovsky, and Maurice Ravel; directors Vsevolod Meyerhold and Alexander Tairov; Ballets Russes impresario Serge Diaghilev; and chess grandmaster José Capablanca. Business papers include financial materials such as bills and accounts, legal papers, and correspondence 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 Prokofiev’s work.

“Prokofiev’s Paris years were among the most productive and inventive of his career, and they connect well with the collections in our Bakhmeteff Archive, one of the largest collections anywhere of émigré Russian history and culture,” said Michael Ryan, director of the RBML. “Columbia also has important music holdings including works by Edward McDowell, Douglas Moore, Jack Beeson, Béla Bartók, and many others, which will be significantly enriched by this acquisition.”

Music manuscripts in the collection include sketches, drafts and full manuscripts for over 50 works principally composed during the years that Prokofiev spent in the United States, Germany and Paris. They include the orchestral Scythian Suite, his operas The Gambler, Love for Three Oranges, and The Fiery Angel, the Concerto for Piano Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5, the ballet Le Pas d’Acier, and Symphony Nos. 1, 3 and 4.

“Prokofiev’s American debut was in New York, and his opera The Love of Three Oranges had its third performance here,” said Simon Morison, president of the Prokofiev Foundation. “The city vexed him, but he loved it and doubtless grieved -- in his final, Soviet years -- being unable to return. His wife Lina grew up in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and her uncle Charles Verlé taught at Columbia. So it is poignantly appropriate that such a large part of Prokofiev’s archive has found a new home in the RBML.”

The collection will provide primary resource material for a major twentieth-century composer, and will provide access to manuscripts previously only available in photocopy form. It will also provide a principal resource outside of Russia for the study of Prokofiev, and his family, friends, correspondents, and concert life in the early 20th-century.

The collection also contains the papers of Lina Prokofiev, including gathered materials for a planned biography of her husband, and those of Oleg Prokofiev, relating to his own work and to his father´s music. This material, as well as a substantial library of books, scores, audio and video recordings, concert programs, scrapbooks, and periodicals that support research on Prokofiev´s entire life and work, has begun to arrive in the RBML, with shipments continuing over the next few months.


 For more information about access and holdings, please contact:

Jennifer B. Lee, Curator, Performing Arts Collections: jbl100@columbia.edu.

 Information about what parts of the archive are available for use will be posted here as the material arrives over the next few months.

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