Gabriel Prokofiev - My Family And Russia [Sunday Feature]

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When Gabriel Prokofiev visits Russia these days he’s celebrated as a composer and a descendant of one of the nation’s most beloved musicians, Sergei Prokofiev. Yet during his lifetime, Gabriel’s grandfather experienced both adulation and suspicion from the Soviet regime, and was eventually denounced, spending his final years in relative obscurity. Gabriel’s father Oleg was an abstract painter and sculptor who eked out a living in Moscow during the 50s and 60s, making avant-garde work that was frowned upon as ‘non-conformist’, before emigrating to the UK to find an audience for his art and raise a family. Gabriel was only 24 when Oleg died, leaving many unanswered questions about his father’s artistic work and life.

On a return trip to Moscow, Gabriel seeks more information about his artist family’s shifting fortunes under the Russian state. He meets Andrei Erofeev, the curator who rediscovered his father’s abandoned paintings in an apartment loft; and Andrew Kokarev, the grandson of Tikhon Khrennikov who, as the head of the Composers’ Union, was implicated in Sergei’s denunciation in 1948.

As a composer, promoter and DJ himself, Gabriel wants to understand what it’s like for creative musicians of his own generation. Do Russian artists today feel constrained by the authorities, and how does that compare with what Gabriel’s grandfather and father experienced? Artist and electronic musician Nikita Rasskazov shares a chilling personal experience, while composer Alexander Manotskov describes a Kafka-esque world that is messed up, but not in the way the Western media would have it. As for both Oleg and Sergei before him, Manotskov is faced with the choice of emigrating, or staying in Russia and forging his artistic path, come what may.

Produced by Chris Elcombe.
A Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 3.

The shifting relationship between Russian music and the state across three generations.

Exploring music, history, science, philosophy, film, visual arts and literature.