Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution (Prokofiev)
Although relatively obscure, the text of this cantata, drawn from the writings of Marx, Lenin and Stalin, is controversial. In ten contrasting movements it relates the story of the Bolshevik Revolution and the birth of the Soviet Union, from the battle for the Winter Palace in 1917, through the suffering of 1918 and Lenin's funeral in 1924, to the building of factories and collective farms in the early thirties, and the final consolidation of Stalin's control over the country with his new constitution of 1936.
Begun by Prokofiev in 1936 on a generous commission from the All-Union Radio Committee and Prokofiev's friend Boris Gusman, it was finished the following summer. Prokofiev expected it to be part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917. Due to the political climate towards artists in 1937, Prokofiev decided to assure his safety by withholding the work. The Cantata had to wait until May 1966 for its premier, 13 years after Prokofiev's death. By this time Stalin was also dead and disgraced.
Previous examples of this type of patriotic cantata include Shock Brigade of the World Proletariat (1931–2) by Alexander Krein and To the Proletariat and Agricultural Symphony (1923) by Alexander Kastalsky.
- Introduction: "A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Communism"
- Marching in Close Ranks
- The Pledge
- The Constitution
The music is frequently unconventional and out of line with the Communist Party's populist remit of socialist realism. Its extravagant sound palette combines a full orchestra with typically Russian choral writing, folk instruments and the sounds of marching, gunfire and sirens. Written when Prokofiev was at the height of his powers, the cantata bears favorable comparison with other masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet, Peter and the Wolf and Alexander Nevsky, written around the same time. Unfortunately, the work is rarely performed.
- Quadruple woodwinds
- Eight horns
- Four trumpets
- Four tombones
- Two tubas
- Accordion orchestra (bayan concertinas)
- Military band (saxhorn family instruments, extra trumpets, French horns, tenor horns, euphonium, tubas, and snare drum)
- Percussion ensemble (alarm bells, cannon shot, sirens)
- Eight-part chorus
- Speaker on megaphone (as the voice of Lenin)
The Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution movement "The philosophers", was used in the opening and closing titles of the film Red Heat.
- Simon Morrison (2006). "The Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of October, or how the spectre of Communism haunted Prokofiev". The Journal of Musicology (University of California Press) 23 (2).