Sergey Prokofiev

Lieutenant Kijé, film score and suite for orchestra, Op. 60

    Description by Robert Cummings

    Beginning in the 1930s, Prokofiev became one of the first composers of international repute to write music for films. His silver screen career began with the score to Alexander Feinzimmer's Lieutenant Kijé (1933), released in America under the title The Czar Wants to Sleep. Though the film is infrequently encountered today, Prokofiev's music has enjoyed tremendous popularity in its incarnation as a five-movement concert suite. Following Kijé, Prokofiev produced a number of film scores of great distinction, most notably those for Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1942-1943). So highly regarded were his skills, in fact, that while researching film and sound techniques in Hollywood during 1937-1938, he was offered a then-colossal $2,500 per week to become a full-time film composer. He rejected the offer and returned to the Soviet Union.

    The music of Lieutenant Kijé is refreshingly satirical, a perfect counterpart to a story about a nonexistent soldier -- "born" of a copyist's error -- who is provided an identity, a heroic military background, and even a wife. Because the Czar himself is led to believe in Kijé's existence, his courtiers are afraid to tell him the truth. When the Czar desires to meet this great hero, it becomes clear that Kijé must be killed off. The Czar attends Kijé's funeral and, over an empty coffin, laments the loss of such a hero.

    The first section of the suite, "The Birth of Kijé," begins with a mournful fanfare on cornets that is followed by comical "military" music on piccolo, flute, and snare drum. After a powerful martial outburst, Kijé's short and rather flaccid theme emerges on tenor saxophone and flute. The "Romance" features a darkly melancholy theme, played on the double bass, of decidedly Russian character. The middle section is more robust; throughout the entire movement, the orchestration remains engaging and colorful. "The Wedding of Kijé" presents the first of the work's two famous themes, a jovial tune on the cornet that serves as a colorful contrast to the pompous music that opens and closes the movement. The lively main theme of the "Troika," set against a glittering backdrop of sleigh bells, is contrasted by sardonic episodes in which brass instruments and pizzicato strings figure prominently. The final "Interment of Kijé" captures the story's ironic humor to splendid effect. Prokofiev begins this section with the same music that opened the suite, after which he presents Kijé's theme. This recap of the work's main material continues with the mournful theme from the "Romance," which carries on unabated when the cornet enters with the jovial wedding tune. These two themes -- one in a slow tempo, the other fast; one melancholy, the other more cheerful -- continue simultaneously, providing one of the most striking moments in the entire work. The "Interment" ends with the mournful cornet music that opened the suite.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Birth of Kije
    2. Romance
    3. Kije's Wedding
    4. Troika
    5. Burial of Kije

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2014 Analogue Productions / RCA Victor CAPC 2150 SA
    2014 Alto ALC 1258
    2013 Entertainment Group 14156
    2013 BIS BIS 1994
    2012 Broken Audio BRAU 0439
    2011 Urania WS121.111
    2011 Exton 49
    2010 Spectrum Music SPECXX 2048
    2010 RPO 28760
    2010 Classic Records 2018
    2009 Decca 4781728
    2008 Brilliant Classics 8818
    2008 Telarc Distribution SACD 60683
    2008 Chandos 10481
    2007 Vox 5021
    2007 VAI Audio 4415
    2007 Tim 220837
    2007 Regis Records 1258
    2007 EMI Classics 11272
    2006 Vanguard Classics / Vanguard 1803
    2006 Koss 1016
    2006 Sony Music Distribution 78761
    2006 Naxos 8557725
    2005 Silverline Records 284213
    2005 JVC Compact Discs 24026
    2005 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 4009
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000424802
    2005 Testament 1394
    2004 Silverline Records 288230
    2004 Artemis Classics ATMCD1513
    2004 Rca Red Seal 62319
    2004 Universal Classics 000174002
    2004 CPO CPO999 976-2
    2003 Mark Custom Recording 4769
    2003 Warner Classics 0927-49147-2
    2003 Warner Classics 7496362
    2003 Warner Classics
    2002 Decca 4732772
    2001 Harmonia Mundi 2907301/10
    2001 Telarc Distribution CD 80683
    2001 Vox 7810
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 463761
    2000 Sony Classical 89287
    2000 Tahra 185-189
    1999 Vanguard 8207
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 907195
    1999 Intersound 2876
    1998 Naxos 8 554057
    1998 Intersound 3847
    1997 Sony Music Distribution 63275
    1996 Intersound 2527
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 447419
    1996 London 448273
    1996 London 444104
    1996 Harmonia Mundi 7901523
    1995 RCA 902661957
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 431614
    1995 RCA 68363
    1995 Sony Classical 69249
    1995 Everest EVC9019
    1994 Philips 442 278-2PM2
    1994 ASV 886
    1994 BIS 531
    1993 Pearl 9487
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48162
    1992 Naxos 550381
    1992 Chandos 8806
    1991 CBS Masterworks 46502
    1990 Telarc Distribution 80143
    1989 RCA Victor 60176
    Deutsche Grammophon 437000
    Palladio 4167
    Deutsche Grammophon 437016
    EMI Music Distribution 64803
    EMI Angel Studio 63235
    EMI Music Distribution 66274
    Decca 430506
    RCA 5605
    Deutsche Grammophon 419603
    CBS Records 39557
    RCA 15168
    Harmonia Mundi 901523
    RCA 61957
    Westminster 471265
    CBS Records 39783
    Pickwick 1603
    EMI Music Distribution 65923
    RCA 60984
    Arlecchino 113
    Intersound 3457