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This is the third and final volume of these enthralling diaries, also the longest, totalling some 1,147 pages in all. The main difference from the other two volumes is in the length of Phillips’ footnotes, which here often take up more page space than Prokofiev’s text and in which at times, it must be said, Phillips drops decidedly into nerd-mode: for example, do we really need so much about the SS Ile de France, on which Prokofiev returned to Europe from New York in 1930, or about Prokofiev’s cars? A more sobering feature of the footnotes is the biographical background Phillips provides of those whom Prokofiev met during his post-revolution visits to the USSR during this period, far too many ending as victims of one of Stalin’s purges.

In this volume too we find Prokofiev settling into marriage to the half-Spanish Carolina Codina, and to fatherhood. For most of these ten years they were based in Paris, but travelled widely in Europe and North America, and finally after an absence of six years, back to what was now the USSR. Stravinsky and Diaghilev inevitably feature large, with some trenchant observations on their work and personalities.

Prokofiev’s character comes through in little flashes, a mixture of arrogance, egoism and pragmatism, the latter often in control: living in a country cottage outside Paris one summer and told there was a heavy pile of scores waiting for him at a rail station a few miles away, he sensibly takes the baby’s pram to load them in and walk back. A nice picture.

Running like a dark thread is the pull back to Russia, in spite of all he learns of the horrors of life under Stalin.

The magnificently translated text itself and Phillips’ staggeringly thorough and erudite contribution in the footnotes offer an invaluable broader picture of the time although, diaries that end up published being what they are, I was often left wondering, ‘Now I wonder what really happened’. Whatever: for good or ill, here the Prodigal is seriously preparing for permanent return, which took place finally in 1936.

DELLA COULING Read the full review on Agora Classica

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