The Scythian Neophyte of the Early 20th Century

Alexander I. Demchenko


One of the hypostases of Sergei Prokofiev’s early music was connected with a special artistic phenomenon, which
entered the history of early 20th century culture, labeled as “Scythianism.” Such images received the maximal amount
of concentration in the ballet “Ada and Lolliy,” which was subsequently revised into an orchestral composition
with the subsequent title of “Scythian Suite.” The initial idea is expressed in the manifestation of the primordial
human being, who rejected the conventionalities of civilization and who lives in the closest relationship with virgin
nature. In conjunction with the enigmatic forces of the earth, an ancient ritual is carried out, which is a semimystical
magical incantation. The pagan imagery received an unexpected interpretation in connection with the
revolutionary events in Russia in 1917. The meaning of what takes place in the cantata “There are Seven of Them”
may be conjectured as a grandiose ritual of furious subversion – this is how the composer attempted to convey the
influx of great turmoil, a perception of an immense demolition of the world, the eruption of unfathomed forces. In
the characteristic features brought forward many things become interlocked with what can be justifiably defined
with such a term as the complex of aggressiveness. The complex of aggressiveness was also supplemented by the
conjunction of musical grotesquerie in some of its manifestations (for instance, in the piano cycle “Sacrasmes”).

Keywords: Sergei Prokofiev, artistic “Scythianism,” musical grotesquerie, the piano cycle “Sarcasmes,”
“Scythian Suite,” cantata “There are Seven of Them.”

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