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About the Book

Upon its premiere in July 1938 during a time of rising tension between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, Sergei Eisenstein's epic film Alexander Nevsky-with a score by preeminent composer Sergei Prokofiev-was widely lauded by Soviet critics and audiences. The score, which Prokofiev would arrange as a separate cantata the following year, approximates the film's narrative, depicting the Proto-Russian citizens of Novgorod's heroic victory over the invading Teutonic Knights. A transparent allegory of contemporary Soviet might in the fact of Nazi war-mongering, the film is regarded as a classic exemplar of state intervention in the arts, commissioned by Stalin to bolster patriotism and national pride, and Prokofiev's cantata remains one of his most performed works.

Drawing from a wide range of archival materials, musicologist Kevin Bartig reassesses the genesis of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky cantata, as well as the various historical projects that have given the music an enduring place in the international performance canon. Part of The Oxford Keynotes Series, this volume considers the ways in which time, place, socio-political concerns, and critical traditions mediate the various meanings of an iconic work like Prokofiev's, and asks how musicians and listeners alike have encountered its music both historically and today.

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