Lieutenant Kijé (Prokofiev)

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Lieutenant Kijé[1] (Russian: Поручик Киже, Poruchik Kizhe) is the score composed by Sergei Prokofiev for the 1934 Soviet film Lieutenant Kijé directed by Aleksandr Faintsimmer based on the novel of the same title by Yury Tynyanov.

Suite from Lieutenant Kijé[edit]

Sergei Prokofiev composed music to the film Lieutenant Kijé in 1933 and compiled a suite from it as his Op. 60. It premiered in Paris in 1937. It exists in two versions, one using a baritone voice and the other using a saxophone. With the help of Prokofiev's friend Boris Gusman, the music was developed as the score for a ballet by the Bolshoi Ballet company.

The Troika movement is frequently used in films and documentaries for Christmas scenes and scenes involving snow. This motif from the suite was also used in the song "I Believe In Father Christmas" by the English rock musician Greg Lake (which was subsequently covered by U2), as well as Helen Love's Christmas single "Happiest Time of the Year". The pop group The Free Design used the motif as the basis for the song "Kije's Ouija", which appears on their 1970 album Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love. In 1953, "Troika" was the basis of "Midnight Sleighride", a chart record for the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra. In 1962, it was again used for the instrumental "Happy Sleigh Ride" from Ferrante And Teicher's "Snowbound" LP. The troika motif was used as the primary musical theme in Woody Allen's 1975 film Love and Death, which takes place in 19th century Russia. In addition, the theme for the Romance movement appears in the synthesizer solo in the song by the pop artist Sting called "Russians" released in 1985.


The suite, in five movements broadly follows the plot of the movie:[2]

  1. Kijé's Birth (Рождение Киже, Rozhdenie Kizhe). A clerk, while writing out the morning orders for Tsar Paul, miscopies two words, creating a Lieutenant "Kijé". The Tsar learns of his "existence", and issues numerous orders concerning him. The palace administrators have no choice but to carry them out.
  2. Romance (Романс,Romanss). The fictional lieutenant falls in love. In the original film, this is a song setting the poem "Стонет сизый голубочек" (The blue-gray dove is moaning) by Ivan Dmitriev.[citation needed]
  3. Kijé's Wedding (Свадьба Киже,Svad'ba Kizhe). Since the Tsar prefers his heroic soldiers to be married, the administrators concoct a fake wedding.
  4. Troika (тройка).
  5. Kijé's Burial (Похороны Киже,Pokhorony Kizhe). The administrators finally rid themselves of the non-existent lieutenant by saying he has died.

According to the score, the duration of the suite is 18 minutes.[3]


Baritone voice (sometimes performed as tenor saxophone).

2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, tenor saxophone (sometimes performed on bassoon), 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, cornet, 3 trombones, tuba, 3 percussionists (cymbals, sleigh bells, triangle, bass drum, snare drum, tambourine), harp, piano or/and celeste, and strings.


Uses in other media[edit]



This music was used for two ballets.

Popular music[edit]

  • Troika
  • Romance
    • Danny Elfman used the broken chords and celesta from this movement to define the end credits for the score to the 1994 film Black Beauty. Much of his score for Black Beauty is a theme with variations on Prokofiev's "Romance".
    • Sting used the melody from the Romance of Lieutenant Kijé in the chorus of his 1985 song "Russians".
    • Blood Sweat & Tears used the melody from the Romance as one of several themes from other works woven into their arrangement of the song "40,000 Headmen", on the album Blood, Sweat & Tears 3.
    • Hard Creation used a short extract of the melody, which is repeated several times in their sinister hardcore track I Will Have That Power.


  1. ^ Liner notes to 3-LP set Vox 3-VCL 9004X: Prokofiev: Music from the Films Ivan the Terrible, Alexander Nevsky, Lieutenant Kizheh: "For one reason or another, the French spelling of the title character's name – Kijé – has persisted in almost universal usage, causing a good deal of confusion as to the proper pronunciation. This is most regrettable, for the pronunciation of this name, rendered phonetically for Anglophones as Kizheh (with the emphasis on the second syllable) is essential to the story. It is in fact the very basis of the plot ... [Kizheh's] career, such as it was, came about in a misinterpretation of a report presented to Tsar Nicholas I, about 1830, in which the Tsar took the words "parootchiki, zheh" ("the lieutenants, however" – the Russian word zheh, roughly equivalent to the German doch, having no real equivalent in English) for "Parootchik Kizheh" (Lieutenant Kizheh"). The Tsar remarks on the unusual name and asks to see that officer's dossier; since no one dares tell the Tsar he has made a mistake, the lieutenant thus created must be provided with a curriculum vitae and his file must be closed as quickly and as neatly as possible."
  2. ^ Available on Google video
  3. ^ Hawkes Pocket Score № 663

External links[edit]