Ivan the Terrible (Prokofiev)

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Ivan the Terrible (Russian: Иван Грозный) is incidental music by Sergei Prokofiev, his Op.116, composed in 1942-45 for Sergei Eisenstein's film Ivan the Terrible and its sequel, the first two parts of a planned but uncompleted trilogy. The project was Prokofiev's second collaboration with Eisenstein, the first being the popular Aleksandr Nevskiy (1938).

The subject of the first film ("Part 1") is the early years, 1547 to 1565, of the reign of Ivan IV of Russia: his coronation, his intent to curb the powers of the boyars, his wedding, his conquest of Kazan, his almost fatal illness, the poisoning and death of his first wife Anastasiya, the formation of the Oprichniki, and his abdication.

The sequel, Ivan the Terrible: The Boyar Conspiracy ("Part 2"), covers the years 1565 to 1569, and concerns the defection of Prince Kurbskiy to Poland-Lithuania, Ivan's disputes with Philip II, Metropolitan of Moscow, the intrigues of the boyars, the excesses of the Oprichniki, the attempted coup by the boyars and Ivan's aunt, Yefrosinya Staritskaya, the murder of Vladimir Staritsky, and Ivan's triumph over his domestic enemies.

The film scores were not published during Prokofiev's lifetime. They were arranged in 1962 as an oratorio for speaker, soloists, chorus, and orchestra by Abram Stasevich, who conducted the scores for Eisenstein. In 1973 the composer Mikhail Chulaki and choreographer Yuriy Grigorovich drew on Prokofiev's film scores to create the ballet Ivan the Terrible, which was given its premiere in 1975. Later performing editions of the scores include an oratorio put together by Michael Lankester (1989), and a concert scenario by Christopher Palmer (1991). The recent restoration of the entire original film score has been published and recorded.


Composition history[edit]

Performance history[edit]

Publication history[edit]

  • 1958, 'Songs and Choruses from the Music for the Film Ivan the Terrible', vocal score, published by Levon Atovmyan in the magazine Sovetskaya Muzyka; the numbers included: 1) 'The Black Cloud', 2) 'Ocean-Sea', 3) 'Song of Praise', 4) 'The Swan', 5) 'The Cannoneers', and 6) 'Song about the Beaver'
  • 1962, Ivan the Terrible, oratorio by Abram Stasevich, vocal score, Sovetskiy Kompozitor, Moscow
  • 1972, Ivan the Terrible, oratorio by Stasevich, full score, Sovetskiy Kompozitor, Moscow
  • 1997, Ivan the Terrible, film score, full score, Musikverlage Hans Sikorski, Hamburg


Part 1[edit]

Scene 1: Prologue

  • Overture
  • Death of Glinskaya
  • Young Ivan's March
  • The Ocean - The Sea
  • Shuisky and the Keepers of the Hounds
  • Death of Glinskaya

Scene 2: The Coronation

  • Kyrie eleison
  • Sofroniev Cherubic Hymn (by A. Kastalsky)
  • May he live forever!

Scene 3: The Wedding

  • Glorification
  • The Swan
  • The Simpleton
  • Riot

Scene 4: The Conquest of Kazan

  • Entrance of the Tartars
  • Cannon are brought to Kazan
  • Kurbsky's Trumpets
  • Ivan's Tent
  • Tartar Steppes
  • The Artillerymen
  • The Tartars
  • Kurbsky's Trumpets
  • Attack
  • Malyuta's Jealousy
  • Kazan has fallen

Scene 5: Ivan's Illness

  • O, my soul (liturgical chant)
  • O, Lord most gracious (liturgical chant)
  • O, my soul (liturgical chant)
  • Ivan's Appeal to the Boyars

Scene 6: The Death of Anastasia

  • Anastasia's Illness
  • Anastasia is poisoned
  • Eternal Remembrance (liturgical chant)
  • Rest with the Saints (liturgical chant)
  • Thou Alone (liturgical chant)
  • Ivan at Anastasia's Coffin

Scene 7: The Oath of the Oprichniks

  • Oath of the Oprichniks
  • Come back!

Part 2[edit]

  • Overture

Scene 8: At the Polish Court

  • Fanfares
  • Polonaise
  • Fanfares

Scene 9: Lamentation for the Executed Boyars

  • Do not sob, Mother (by F. Ivanov)
  • It were better for you, Judas
  • Shuisky and the Keepers of the Hounds

Scene 10: The Fiery Furnace (liturgical drama)

  • Wondrous is God (by D. Bortnyansky)
  • Song of the Boys
  • Song about the Beaver

Scene 11: The Tsar's Banquet and the Cathedral

  • Chaotic Dance and Orderly Dance of the Oprichniks
  • Song of the Oprichniks
  • O, my soul (liturgical chant)
  • Song of the Oprichniks (without choir)
  • Chorus of the Oprichniks (without words)
  • Vladimir's Murder
  • Entrance of Ivan
  • Finale


Strings: violins I & II, violas, cellos, double basses
Woodwinds: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 1 english horn, 2 clarinets, 1 E-flat clarinet, 1 bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 1 contrabassoon, tenor saxophone
Brass: 4 horns, 5 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba
Percussion: timpani, bass drum, snare drum, triangle, tambourine, cymbals, bells, church bells, xylophone, wood block, whip
Other: piano, harp

Versions by other hands[edit]

Oratorio by Levon Atovmyan (1961)[edit]

Oratorio by Abram Stasevich (1962)[edit]

Ballet by Mikhail Chulaki (1975)[edit]

The ballet Ivan the Terrible was arranged by Mikhail Chulaki for a 1975 production by choreographer Yuriy Grigorovich at the Bolshoy Theatre. The two act work consists of selections from Prokofiev's film score for Ivan the Terrible supplemented with excerpts from his Symphony No. 3 (1928), Russian Overture (1936), and film score for Aleksandr Nevsky (1938).

The world premiere performance took place on 20 February 1975 at the Bolshoy Theatre. Algis Zhuraitis conducted. The cast included Yuriy Vladimirov (Ivan), Nataliya Bessmertnova (Anastasiya), and Boris Akimov (Kurbskiy).

Oratorio by Michael Lankester (1989)[edit]

Concert Scenario by Christopher Palmer (1991)[edit]

Christopher Palmer discusses his Ivan the Terrible concert scenario in the notes to a Chandos CD recording made a few days after the work's premiere:

"...in 1962 Abram Stasevich (1906-1971), who had conducted Ivan for the film soundtrack, published his Ivan the Terrible 'oratorio' for speaker, soloists, chorus and orchestra which incorporated all the major musical sequences in the film plus a few that had been left out (notably 'Russian Sea'). It is in this form that the Ivan music has been known outside the film ever since, and in this form that critics have tended to find it long and diffuse. The main problem is the speaker, introduced by Stasevich primarily because he had been unwise enough to try and incorporate a large number of short fragmentary episodes, and had to find a way of stitching them together. Unfortunately once the speaker was in, he seemed to take over the entire work—much to its detriment in terms of narrative intelligibility and tightness of structure. My new 'performing version' eliminates the speaker and shorter sections (most of which are pastiche Russian-liturgical music of minimal Prokofievian interest). It also restores a number of episodes to their original format, most importantly the assassination of the Pretender in Part II—the climax of the film and one of the most electrifying moments in film music. While retaining Stasevich's make-up of most of the larger movements, I have reverted largely to the film's original sequence of musical events."[1]

The 'new' work is in thirteen movements[2] (some nevertheless consisting of 2 or 3 numbers):

  1. Overture
  2. Russian Sea
  3. Wedding
  4. Fire
  5. Tartars and Cannoneers
  6. The Storming of Kazan
  7. Ivan's Sickness
  8. At the Polish Court
  9. Anastasia
  10. Song of the Beaver (Ephrosynia's Lullaby)
  11. The Banquet
  12. Murder in the Cathedral
  13. Finale (Coda)

The concert scenario received its premiere on 28 February 1991 at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Neeme Järvi conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus.[3]



Year Conductor Orchestra and choir Soloists Version
1965? Abram Stasevich Moscow State Philharmonic Orchestra,
Moscow State Choir
Valentina Levko (mezzo-soprano),
Anatoliy Mokrenko (baritone),
Aleksandr Estrin (speaker)
1972 Maksim Shostakovich London Philharmonic Orchestra,
Yurlov Choral Kapella
1978 Riccardo Muti Philharmonia Orchestra,
Ambrosian Chorus
Irina Arkhipova (mezzo-soprano),
Anatoliy Mokrenko (baritone),
Boris Morgunov (speaker)
1979 Leonard Slatkin Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Claudine Carlson (mezzo-soprano),
Samuel Timberlake (bass),
Without speaker
1991 Neeme Järvi The Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus Linda Finnie (contralto),
Nikita Storozhev (bass-baritone)
1993 Mstislav Rostropovich London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus,
The New London Children's Choir
Tamara Sinyavskaya (mezzo-soprano),
Sergei Leiferkus (baritone),
Christopher Plummer (narrator)
1993 Vladimir Fedoseyev Ostankino Television-Radio Symphony Orchestra,
Yurlov Choral Kapella
Nina Romanova (mezzo-soprano),
Grigoriy Gritsuk (bass),
Boris Morgunov (speaker)
1995 Dmitriy Kitayenko Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt,
Danish National Radio Choir,
Kinderchor Frankfurt
Tamara Sinyavskaya (mezzo-soprano),
Wolfgang Brendel (baritone),
Sergey Yurskiy (speaker)
1996 Alipi Naydenov Russian Philharmonic Orchestra,
Danube Sounds Choir
Vessela Zorova (mezzo-soprano),
Dimiter Stanchev (bass),
Boris Morgunov (speaker)
1997 Valeriy Gergiev Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra,
Chorus of the Kirov Orchestra
Lyubov Sokolova (mezzo-soprano),
Nikolay Putilin (baritone),
Without speaker
2000 Vladimir Fedoseyev Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra,
Yurlov Choral Kapella,
Children's Choir of Studio Vesna
Irina Chistyakova (contralto),
Dmitriy Stepanovich (bass)
Film score
2003 Valeriy Polyansky State Symphonic Kapella of Russia,
Russian State Symphonic Kapella
Lyudmila Kuznetsova (mezzo-soprano),
Sergey Toptygin (baritone)
Film score
2004 Leonard Slatkin BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Irina Chistyakova (mezzo-soprano),
James Rutherford (bass-baritone),
Simon Russell Beale (speaker)
2013 Tugan Sokhiev Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin,
Rundfunkchor Berlin,
Staats- und Domchor Berlin
Olga Borodina (mezzo-soprano),
Ildar Abdrazakov (bass)


Year Conductor Orchestra Roles Version
1976 Algis Zhuraitis Bolshoy Theatre Orchestra Yuriy Vladimirov (Ivan),
Nataliya Bessmertnova (Anastasiya),
Boris Akimov (Kurbskiy),
Bolshoy Ballet
1990 Algis Zhuraitis Bolshoy Theatre Orchestra Irek Mukhamedov (Ivan),
Nataliya Bessmertnova (Anastasiya),
Gediminas Taranda (Kurbskiy),
Bolshoy Ballet
2003 Vello Pähn Orchestre de l’Opéra de Paris Nicolas Le Riche (Ivan),
Eleonora Abbagnato (Anastasiya),
Karl Paquette (Kurbskiy),
Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris



  1. ^ Palmer (1991)
  2. ^ Palmer (1991)
  3. ^ Palmer (1991)


  • Glinka State Central Museum of Musical Culture, Moscow, and Musikverlag Hans Sikorski, Hamburg, The complete music for the film 'Ivan the Terrible', notes to CD NI 5662/3, Nimbus Records Ltd. 2000
  • Palmer, Christopher, Ivan the Terrible: Concert Scenario, notes to CD CHAN 8977, Chandos Records Ltd. 1991

External links[edit]