program notes by composition > A > Athletic Festival March

Athletic Festival March

Sergei Prokofieff/arr. Richard Franko Goldman

Athletic Festival March Sergei Prokofieff (1891-1953) was a prominent Russian pianist, conductor and composer. He wrote operas, symphonies, ballets, concertos and sonatas. He was born in the Ukraine and graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He achieved initial notoriety as an iconoclastic composer-pianist with a series of ferociously dissonant and virtuosic works.

Prokofieff left for the west after the Russian Revolution and returned in 1936 to a chilling lack of artistic freedom. He wrote some patriotic music out of necessity but did not succumb completely to Soviet dogma, for which he paid a price.

In this “March for the Spartakiad” Prokofieff imagined a gathering of millions of young Soviet athletes. The march is written in a triumphant, positive vein for the glory of Soviet Russia, but also in the festive tradition of much nineteenth-century Russian music. A basic march theme is interspersed with more tuneful “Russian” melodies. The form is clear cut, using rondo elements and exact reprise, with a minimum of dissonance.

In 1948 the Politburo denounced Prokofieff and others for the crime of "formalism", described as a "renunciation of the basic principles of classical music" in favor of "muddled, nerve-racking" sounds that "turned music into cacophony."