New London Orchestra, Ronald Corp (conductor)
Once we understand Prokofiev’s own child-like nature we need not be surprised that he took to writing children’s music like the duck (in his own Peter and the Wolf) took to jumping into – and, less sensibly, out of – the water. He had a truly child-like guilelessness of spirit: life for him was always a great adventure, with the unexpected lurking round every corner. Excitement was constantly in the air, everything was a cause for wonder, and when he declared that the composer’s business was ‘to serve his fellow men, to beautify human life and point the way to a radiant future’ (my italics) he wasn’t just rehearsing some mandatory Soviet ideological platitude but stating, simply and sincerely, his own artistic credo. No wonder his music has such vitality and colour. To the end he viewed the world as a child views it: hopefully and with joy in his heart. He had more than his fair share of misfortunes and disappointments – particularly after his return to Soviet Russia – but the light never went out. He believed, as children do, that all the best story books have Happy Endings.