Diaries 1915–1923: Behind the Mask by Sergey Prokofiev (Translated and annotated by Anthony Phillips) - review by Alexander Waugh

Alexander Waugh

The Maestro Matures

Diaries 1915–1923: Behind the Mask


Faber & Faber 775pp £30

The first volume of Prokofiev’s extraordinary diary, which covered the period 1907–14, was published by Faber two years ago. I reviewed it enthusiastically in these pages, expressing impatience for its sequel.

Two years is a long time to be feeling impatient; so I had already taken the trouble to have short sections of it translated from the three-volume unindexed Russian version, which is currently only available from Paris via the composer’s son’s website. It will no doubt be another two years until we see the final volume (1923–33) translated into English. This second one, which stops just before Prokofiev’s marriage to Lina Codina in September 1923, is unfortunately so interesting and fluently translated that even the slowest reader is unlikely to take more than a week to gobble through its 775 pages.

Here we see how the cocky prodigy of Volume I transforms himself into the man, the lover, and the composer of international repute. It is no exaggeration to say that there is not a single dull paragraph in the whole book. If I open it randomly and plop my finger

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