Short Takes: Central Park Conservatory, Early Spring

Snowdrops IMG_0037_edited-1

Finally, a different sort of white. Finally, spring begins.

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In the summer of 1941, Prokofiev (1891-1953), Myaskovsky (1881-1950), and other composers were evacuated to Nalchik, on the north slope of the Caucasus. While there, Prokofiev received a commission from Khatu Temirkanov, the chairman of the local Arts Affairs Administration, for a string quartet “merging ‘new and untouched Eastern folklore with the most classical of classical forms—the string quartet.’” Prokofiev expressed concern that people in Nalchik wouldn’t comprehend his work, since, “excluding its excellent folksongs, Kabardinian musical culture, from a European musical perspective, remains undeveloped.” Temirkanov responded “write what you feel: if we don’t understand your quartet at first, we will appreciate it later.” Myaskovsky thought the string quartet “wild-eyed and fantastical” and “monstrously, even ‘nightmarishly’ interesting.” [Simon Morrison, The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years, 178] Information on songs and dances Prokofiev used in the quartet may be found here (the date of composition given at the link appears to be incorrect).

Prokofiev wrote only two string quartets. Myaskovsky was much more prolific in the genre. While in Nalchik in 1941, Myaskovsky wrote his seventh string quartet, about which information may be found here.

On YouTube:

Sergei Prokofiev, String Quartet No. 2 in F Major, Op. 92 (1941, first movement)

Nikolai Myaskovsky, String Quartet No. 7 in F. Major, Op. 55 (1941) (First Movement)

Click on the links for the second, third,  and fourth movements.



17 thoughts on “Short Takes: Central Park Conservatory, Early Spring

  1. Jane and Lance Hattatt

    Hello Susan:

    As always your posts bring us into contact with areas of music, if such it can be termed, which are both unusual and interesting and, in this particular instance, previously unknown to us. It is of note to understand the time, and place, in which these quartets were composed.

  2. Brigitta “Britta” Huegel

    Dear Sue,
    so finally spring is coming to NY? You had a really long winter – I can imagine how thankful one is for the snowdrops and the silky bright crocus!
    I like the String Quartet No. 7 – and the beautiful photo of the peasant with horse and mule – what a hard way to earn one’s living, how spoilt we are nowadays.
    Enjoy spring! Britta

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Britta: You may be amused to know that, only days after I posted this, there was a dip to below freezing and some snow! But it quickly passed off, and spring continues. I’m glad you enjoyed the Myaskovsky String Quartet. I liked the accompanying photo, too, and you are so right about what a hard way to make a living!

  3. David N

    Forgive long silence – apart from e-inaccessibility abroad I wanted to listen to Molly Joyce’s piece before commenting on the previous post, and still haven’t had the time. I’ll make it, eventually.

    And what do you actually think of the Prokofiev? It’s so earthy and entertaining, isn’t it, with a few troubling shades. The main slow-movement Kabardinian theme is very beautiful. And how lovely as ever to see your springshots: glad it’s reached you. In Switzerland it was so warm and Junelike I never wore a jumper, and my jacket was too thick. Wisteria and lilacs in abundance – still not out here yet.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: I suspected you were out and about–you have been wonderfully peripatetic as of late, and bringing back lovely photographs, too. I was delighted to finally get a chance to try out my new compact camera and train it on spring flowers. (Interesting that Switzerland was so warm this time of year. There’s just no telling, anymore, is there?)

      The Prokofiev is a delight! I’ve been poking around a good bit lately among string quartets and was so pleased to find two from him. I like the way you describe #2, too. (On other music fronts, as you may have seen, Molly’s new piece is no longer available, but I’m sure we’ll hear more from her. She’s won a grant to study for a year in The Netherlands, then she goes on to Yale.)

  4. hilarymb

    Hi Susan .. I love the slide show of Central Park with the flowers on offer so early in the year – Spring really does inspire doesn’t it .. We are greening and colouring, but it’s still chilly at night and that is lovely as we can enjoy the blooms for a while yet .. cheers and Happy, Peaceful Easter .. Hilary

  5. friko

    Good, you’e taken time out to look about you at the glorious signs of spring. Music is all very well, even essential, but nature too gladdens the heart. Enjoy them both.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Friko: Well, of course, you and your garden are a constant inspiration in that regard. It’s been wonderful to get out the camera and take pictures of early spring flowers. (Like you, by the way, I have a new camera, a compact one for travel, and I need a lot of practice!) May your spring continue on gloriously, too.

  6. Steve Schwartzman

    This afternoon we watched a 1948 movie called The Iron Curtain, which told the true story of a Russian defector in Canada who revealed the extent of Soviet espionage there after World War II. I thought about you because the film featured music by Prokofiev, Khachaturian, and Shostakovich (especially the 5th Symphony).

      1. Steve Schwartzman

        It was on the cable television channel called Turner Classic Movies. The movie was scheduled for late at night, so I recorded it on a DVD and we watched it the next day.

  7. shoreacres

    I’ve been thinking about you daily. The swallows are back now, and while the babies haven’t yet hatched, it won’t be so very long. The adults are quite delightful, lining up along lifelines and docklines to chatter and chirp. Once the babies arrive, they’ll form long lines, waiting patiently on the boats for the parents to arrive with mosquitoes and other insects.

    The slideshow is wonderful. I do miss the spring in a colder climate – the shift from white to color is always so remarkable, and soul-stirring. And I listened to all the movements of the Myaskovsky. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d not heard of him, either. It’s always an amazement to find such new beauty – it’s an invitation to wonder what else might be “out there.”

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      shoreacres: I do my bluebird box monitoring tomorrow, and it will be interesting to see how things are coming along. Last week, a few nests were in evidence, and one had one egg. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the swallows and the way they line up wherever they can. I haven’t seen it here, although we do have plenty of tree swallows flying around, including in our yard. They usually set up house in at least one nest box, too. So pleased you enjoyed the Myaskovsky! Until I started reading about Shostakovich, I knew nothing of him either (and still know very little). Always nice when you strike a vein of gold and there’s plenty more to explore.

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