Prokofiev: The Ugly Duckling Op.18 for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra

SKU MM-0006
Weight 3.20 LBS
Difficulty Intermediate/Advanced
Instrumentation 2Fl1dPicc, 2Ob, 2Cl, BCl, 2Bsn, 2Hn, 2Tpt, 2Tbn, Perc(1), Harp, Strings
Duration 12 minutes
Set of Parts Includes Strings count, Solo voice available in Full Score.
Score Type

Certainly Prokofiev’s own ‘stories’ for children end happily – and there are quite a number, not merely those recorded here. The first was The Ugly Duckling, a setting of an adaptation (by Nina Meshchersky, Prokofiev’s first ‘real’ girlfriend) of Hans Christian Andersen’s well-known fairy tale. The piece is not, however, designed specifically for children, who would probably be bewildered by the absence of ‘melodious’ melody. The text is in prose, not verse, and is set à la Mussorgsky as continuous melodic recitative: the form is that of a miniature operatic scena in which voice and orchestra set the drama to music as it  unfolds, without formalizing it. The original voice and piano version was basic duckling, though hardly an ugly one! Prokofiev proceeded then to turn it into a large and beautiful orchestral swan in a way that relates interestingly to contemporaneous trends in Russian art: the bird and animal characterizations suggest the bright, sharp colours of Larionov, Goncharova and the Primitivists, whereas the nature-music – the deepening dark and cold of winter, the coming of spring and sunshine – is more akin to Impressionism (Borisov-Mussatov and Larionov’s early work). Apart from the 1918 Tales of an Old Grandmother for piano (again, like the Duckling, not so much children’s music as music about children or the child’s world), Prokofiev did not return to this theme until the mid-1930s. By this time he was married with two children of his own and had decided to settle permanently in Soviet Russia – where, of course, policies of coercion-through-indoctrination were particularly aimed at children, and composers were urged to compose for ‘the people’ in general and ‘young’ people in particular. Hence the twelve short and simple piano pieces of Opus 65, Music for Children, simple enough for children to play, written in 1935 at
the same time as the ballet Romeo and Juliet. In 1941 the composer selected seven of the twelve and scored them for small orchestra, sacrificing some of their transparency in the process but giving them a new dimension of colour and also, of course, bringing them a wider audience.

2Fl1dPicc, 2Ob, 2Cl, BCl, 2Bsn, 2Hn, 2Tpt, 2Tbn, Perc(1), Harp, Strings
12 minutes
Set of Parts:
Includes Strings count, Solo voice available in Full Score.