back to portraits


   Anton Rovner
The Musical Legacy of Sergei Protopopoff (Sergej Protopopov), a Continuation of the Tradition of Scriabin and Boleslav Yavorsky (Javorsky), in the Context of His Epoch
   Sergei Protopopoff , whose musical legacy is still not very well known either to the music specialist or to the average audience member, has presented himself as a rare if not a unique phenomenon of a composer, who in his musical output has strictly followed a theoretical system, devised by a theoretician, namely his teacher, Boleslav Yavorsky. A rather orthodox adherence to Yavorsky's theory is organically combined with a personal, original style and a fully developed musical aesthetical position, very much attuned to certain trends in early 20th century art, including music, literature and the visual arts: the bold stylistic innovations of the Futurists, the Romanticism and search for new mythological semantics of the Symbolists and the metaphysical cosmogony of the Suprematists.
   Protopopoff's musical innovations could be compared to those of Alexander Scriabin and Igor Stravinsky as well as the lesser-known early 20th century Russian avant-garde composers, forming the "forgotten generation of Russian composers" of which Protopopoff is definitely a part. Among these composers, whose legacy has begun to be revived in the mid-80's, one could mention such names as Nicolai Roslavetz, Arthur Lourie and Alexander Mosolov.
   Protopopoff, similarly to many other composers of his generation, has undergone the influence of Scriabin, especially in his late, post-tonal style, his new harmonic language with its specific structural system, as well as the spiritual legacy of Scriabin's music and philosophy. Notwithstanding a very strict adherence to Yavorsky's theoretical system and the extreme schematic and structuralistic qualities inherent in it, Protopopoff's music contains a strong influence of Scriabin in its harmony, instrumental textures and general musical aesthetical qualities. Yavorsky himself was greatly influenced by Scriabin's musical legacy and in his theoretical system one can trace many similarities to the structure of Scriabin's late musical style. Nevertheless, Yavorsky's theoretical system could not be reduced to adhering to Scriabin's harmonic discoveries, since their primary structural elements and concepts were derived from totally different sources and points of reference. Nevertheless, it might be worthwhile to bring out a tri-lateral scheme of Scriabin's influence (most of all, the influence of his harmonic language), forming a triangle: Scriabin: Protopopoff, Yavorsky:Protopopoff and Scriabin:Yavorsky:Protopopoff.
   Scriabin's harmonic style (speaking exclusively of Scriabin's late style, starting from his "Prometheus") is very structural and schematic in its essence, however it was formed by Scriabin throughout the course of many years of search and musical evolution, which ultimately led to an "emancipation of dissonant intervals." Protopopoff's harmonic language, carrying in itself many correspondences and parallels to Scriabin's harmonic system, is from its source much more schematic in its origins, it follows more definite prescribed rules. Those musical "laws," which in Scriabin's music are created in a more spontaneous manner, which he himself freely adheres to, modifies and transgresses at will, in Protopopoff's music are determined much more exactly and all "transgressing" and "liberalizing" of these laws, are carried out likewise forming a much more lengthy and clearly perceivable process. Nevertheless, Protopopoff's music maintains an assortment of Romantic, highly expressive and spiritually exalted qualities, which are inherent in Scriabin's music, even going as far as in such cases Protopopoff's music being less strictly structured and schematic than Scriabin's. Russian theorist Evgeny Kosiakin (in his article "Scriabin and Russian Avant-garde Composers) writes about Scriabin's influence on the succeeding Russian avant-garde composers (to the category of which Protopopoff belongs): "Despite all the sharpness of the struggle of the avant-garde composers against Scriabin's ideology, the depth of spirituality, coming out of Scriabin's music, exerted a great amount of influence on their creative output). One could assume that it was this depth which guarded them from excessive rationalism and dryness, tendencies towards which could be determined in their theoretical constructions. " Protopopoff's music successfully carries out such organic symbiosis of Scriabin's musical and spiritual legacy with more cerebral, constructivistic aesthetical trends of the 1920's, the decade during which Protopopoff wrote most of his important compositions: his three Piano Sonatas as well as numerous songs for voice and piano to the texts of Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Sergei Lipsky, as well as longer and more elaborately developed songs on folk poems and folk tales ("The Crow and the Lobster," "The Hermit Fox" and "The Tale of the Wondrous Whistle").
   The structural qualities of Protopopoff's music, as has been stated earlier, is in many ways similar to Scriabin's constructive qualities of his late style. The main feature is forming the basis of musical compositions on a central chord or scale, as well as formed hierarchies of chords and scales. Nevertheless, whereas Scriabin's innovative harmonic system served in his case as a means to further elaboration on and refinement of his already existing means of expression of his late Romantic style, Protopopoff's structural language serves him to pursue aims which are extremely different from Scriabin's - it is utilized to create large-scale, coldly-abstract constructive musical forms, which is the case mostly in his Piano Sonatas and, to a slightly lesser degree in his vocal compositions. While Scriabin creates extremely contrasting changes of moods and pungently mystical and emotional conditions, Protopopoff for the most part maintains a steady, persistent statically-exalted mode of expression, by which he evokes certain similarities with the Eastern "non-linear" aesthetics, as manifested in Japanese "frozen landscapes" as well as Indian raga.
   The harsh, urbanistically-constructive attitude in Protopopoff's music, showing itself most notably in Protopopoff's pungent, dry and at the same time Romantically bravura piano technique, have certain similarities with the aesthetics of Cubism as demonstrated in the geometric forms in the art works of Russian Cubist and Suprematist painters, such as Kazimir Malevich, V. Tatlin, I. Matyushin and I. Chashnik (especially prominent in Malevich's famous painting "The Black Square"). It is also similar in part to the constructivistic musical language of Alexander Mosolov. Nevertheless one can discern a sharp difference between Mosolov's and Protopopoff's music. The technically elaborate and urbanistically virtuosic piano textures of Mosolov, though in many ways similar to those of Protopopoff, in the case of the former carry a more extravertively-expressive character of music, a more outwardly flashy and theatrical manner of presenting the musical material. Among the compositions, which especially demonstrate these qualities, one can mention his bravura modernistic arrangements of folk music of peoples of Central Asia (such as, for instance, "Turkmenian Nights" for piano), as well as his programmatically descriptive pieces, depicting machines (most notably the "Iron Factory" for orchestra). Unlike Protopopoff, Mosolov hardly gives any thought to strict pitch organization - it is present in a very sporadic and unorganized manner, mostly emphasizing thematic repetition or development. Mosolov's harmonic language is for the most part "freely atonal," very improvisatory in its manner and more focused on searching for new piano textures for their own sake independent of pitch structure consciousness, as well as more attention to the directness of audience perception. Protopopoff's similarly urbanistic textures and aesthetical qualities are more abstract, cold and introvertive. Similarly to the futurists, Protopopoff aims at distancing himself from the programatic-descriptive musical language of the 19th and the early 20th century, focusing himself on "absolute," an immersion into abstract sounds and sonorities for their own sake.
   In this light it is especially interesting to compare Protopopoff's music with the music of his contemporary Arthur Lourie, a composer, who has most fully aligned himself with the Futurist movement. Most notably in Lourie's atonal compositions of 1913-1917, such as his "Syntheses" and "Formes dans l'air" both for piano and the First String Quartet, one can see many points of similarity with the music of Protopopoff: the qualities of athematicism (in the case of Protopopoff a varied kind of athematicism in the form of a hermetically strict monothematicism), complete discarding of traditional structures in melody, harmony and form, as well as a centralized function of a leading harmonic structure. Both composers create new constructivist forms, at the core of which lie a continuous varied development as well as division into episodes, which are extremely contrasting from each other texturally. Nevertheless, in Lourie's compositions, the abstraction and the athematicism play a much greater role than in Protopopoff's music and the former composer pays a great deal less attention to the leading organizing role of scalar and harmonic constructions, in his case they change freely and sporadically.
   The difference between the legacy of Protopopoff and that of the leading composer of the Russian musical avant-garde, Nicolai Roslavetz, could be established very clearly. A strict adherence to classical sonata form, present in Roslavetz's work, adequately combined with the new harmonic language, which the composer labels as "the new system of organizing sounds," is for the most part absent in Protopopoff. An emotionally exuberant Romantic-Expressionistic manner, along with the spontaneous dramatic climaxes and recessions - all these features, which make Roslavetz's music so close to Scriabin's, are apparently as remote from Protopopoff's even-tempered and distinct juxtaposition of textural units and emotional moods into lengthy blocks of time. The main difference is in the harmonic systems of Roslavetz and Protopopoff, though here too there are many similarities. Roslavetz's system of the "synthetic chord", notwithstanding its innovative qualities, is based essentially on slight modifications of the traditional tertial harmony. Often the "synthetic chords" contain elements of diatonic scales and consist of combinations of several major or minor trichords piled one on top of the other. Frequently the combination of trichords in certain "synthetic chords" could even contain trichords, carrying the harmonic functions (in the context of traditional, tonal theory) of tonic, dominant and subdominant chords, though not necessarily utilized in that manner or with that intent in the new system. For instance in the song "You have not left" for soprano and piano by Roslavetz, set to the poem of Alexander Blok, the "synthetic chord" contains an Ab minor trichord (carrying the presumable "tonic" function), an Eb minor trichord (with the presumable "dominant" function) as well as the note Fb (bringing in the "subdominant" element). Roslavetz never denied the concept and function of "tonality" in his works, though he preferred to replace it with the concept of "new tonality", a term which gives the most adequate definition to not only Roslavetz's system but also those of late Scriabin and Protopopoff. This is yet another point of similarity between Roslavetz's harmonic system and those of late Scriabin and Protopopoff. Scriabin, along with Roslavetz and Protopopoff, utilizes his harmonic constructions in such a way as to bring in modified functions of "tonic," "dominant" and "subdominant," along with all the possible transpositions of them. The similarity is also present in the usage of non-harmonic "dissonant" tones, which either "resolve" to the "consonant" notes present in a respective harmonic construction, or serve as means to "modulate" into a new harmonic construction. Nevertheless there exists a sharp difference between the system of Roslavetz on one hand and those of Scriabin and Protopopoff on the other hand, which has been most successfully formulated by Kholopov: "...Roslavetz presents himself as a phenomenon coming later in time than Scriabin. The latter had indeed worked with chords as the leading element of his harmony. (...) Roslavetz, though naming the central element of his harmonic series as a "synthetic chord," realizes it musically in all effect more serially than harmonically" . Other major points of difference are that Roslavetz in general, unlike both Scriabin and Protopopoff, does not make an emphasis on presenting dominant-seventh sounding qualities in his "tonic" chordal constructions (presenting a greater amount of allusions to diatonic "minor" harmonies, unlike Scriabin's and Protopopoff's more insisting allusions to diatonic "major" harmonies), nor does he emphasize any inner symmetries within the horizontal, scalar manifestations of his "synthetic chords" nor give any special functional importance to the interval of the tritone.
   Having compared the musical legacy with that of a number of the most notable representatives of the Russian musical avant-garde of the 1910's and the 1920's, we can proceed to discerning some of the basic principles of his compositional techniques, which requires that we examine an analyze the musical theory of his teacher Boleslav Yavorsky, which, along with Scriabin's harmonic language, played a crucial role in the development of Protopopoff's musical thinking.
   The theoretical system of Yavorsky is well-known by the few books published during his life, dedicated to this theory. First of all, one can name the book of Yavorsky, called "The Construction of the Language of Music," which was published in 1908. The most detailed and concise summary of the theory of this theory is in Protopopoff's own book "Elements of Constructions of the Language of Music" in two volumes, written under Yavorsky's guidance and published in Moscow in 1930. Other summaries of the theory include smaller scale and less detailed descriptions in articles by Yavorsky and Protopopoff, most of them yet unpublished, as well as descriptions in books and articles by Dernova, Victor Zuckermann and Yuri Kholopov in Russia, Detlev Gojowy in Germany and Gordon Mcquere in the USA. As is well-known, the key element of music in Yavorsky's theoretical system is the interval of the tritone. Being a dissonant interval, the tritone naturally requires to be resolved: the diminished fifth (B-F) is resolved into the major third (C-E), the augmented fourth (B-E#) resolves into the minor sixth (A#-F#). In this manner, the intervallic distance between these two possible resolutions also turns out to equal to a tritone. (C-E and F#-A#) (Example 1).
   This resolution in Yavorsky's system is given the function of a "dominant" resolution. A "subdominant" resolution is formed by moving from the interval of a perfect fifth (D-A), through a dissonant passing interval of a doubly-diminished fifth (D#-Ab) into a consonant interval of a minor third (E-G). The equivalent tritone transposition results in the resolution of the interval G#-D# through Gx-D into the consonant A#-C# (Example 2). From the combination of the dominant and subdominant resolutions the various harmonic systems "scalar-modal units " ("lad" in Russian) are formed. The most important and stable among the "scalar-modal units" is the major "scalar-modal unit" (Example 3). In conmbination with the tritone transposition, a "double-scalar-modal unit" is formed (Example 4). A complete combination of the dominant and subdominant progressions in conjunction with their tritonal transpositions is labeled in Protopopoff's book as a "complete major double-scalar-modal unit" (Example 5). Different diverse juxtapositions of the dominant and subdominant progressions result in other "scalar-modal units:" the minor (Example 6), the augmented (Example 7), the diminished or the "chain" (Example 8) and many other scalar-modal units, including much more complex and irregular ones. According to Yavorsky (as well as to Protopopoff), this theory can be applied to any kind of music: folk music, tonal, atonal (or rather, "newly-tonal" in the context to the music examined in the book) and even microtonal. Protopopoff's book examines all of these different types of music, successfully applying Yavorsky's theory to each one of them.
   In the section of the book devoted to folk music, when applying Yavorsky's theory to unaccompanied melodies, Protopopoff still carries out the analysis, examining the melodic contour of the melodies by splitting the two-voice dominant and subdominant progressions into separate one-voice progressions using either the upper or the lower part of the two-voice progression to carry out the analysis, i.e. individually examining the resolution of either B to C or F to E in a melodic line, implying the dominant progression or the resolution of A (via an assumed Ab) to G or D (via an assumed D#) to E, implying the subdominant progression. The analysis of tonal music needs no further explanation as the theoretical system is more clearly fit to analyze music which is based on the relation between tonic, dominant and subdominant scale degrees. The musical examples used in this major section of the book include compositions by Bach, Chopin, Liszt and early Scriabin. When examining works by late 19th century composers, the book gives a good example of how well Yavorsky's theory could be applied to music with extended tonality, by analyzing it with less regular scalar-modal-units formed from more irregular combinations of the dominant and subdominant resolutions and, particularly by frequently utilizing the "chain" scalar-modal-unit. The final section of the book presents a section devoted to possible interpretation of microtonal music by means of this theory, which works generally the same way in an extended manner, utilizing such intervals as the quarter-tone, third tone and sixth tone. Though not containing any music examples, due to lack of available musical repertoire, this section speculates on possible music, which might be written in the future by means of extending this system to the microtonal realm and implies a suggestion or even an invitation to composers of the future to attempt to compose such microtonal music which, nevertheless, would fit this all-encompassing theory.
   When examining examples of post-tonal harmony (we can label it this way to avoid the totally inadequate term "atonal") when analyzing the compositions of late Scriabin as well as his own compositions, Protopopoff applies the theory of Yavorsky. The new functional basis of the analysis of the compositions become the "double-scalar-modal units:" the major (Example 5), the "chain" (Example 9) and the augmented (Example 10). When these "scalar-modal units" are presented in a purely horizontal linear-scalar form, a number of symmetrical scales or modes are formed (often similar or identical to Messiaen's "modes of limited transposition"), though frequently with the addition of "passing tones," (formed from the dissonant passing intervals in the dominant and subdominant harmonic progressions), which are not contained in these scales, but are used as "dissonant" tones, which are meant to resolve into the "consonances." The most frequently resulting scale formed from this horizontal presentation is the octotonic ("whole-step half-step) scale. The vertical, harmonic manifestation of the scalar-modal unit, based on the resolving ditones, contains its own independent functional sound hierarchy, in which the first in importance are the two "tonic" pitches, in this case the pitches C and F#, the second in importance are E and A# and third in importance are G and C#, all of which determine the tonal sources of this system. Next come the "unstable," "dissonant" scale steps, the most prominent among which are pitches present in the "dominant" progressions, i.e. B and F (or B and E# in the tritone transposition) and those present in the "subdominant" progressions, i.e. D and A (and, consequently, G# and D#) along with the "passing tones," leading to the resolution, i.e. D# and Ab (consequently, Gx and D). (Example 11).
   In Protopopoff's musical compositions one can discern two "harmonic styles," resulting from two different ways of applying Yavorsky's theory to his music. The "strict harmonic style" is formed in such compositions which for the most part (or sometimes entirely) adhere to one fixed horizontal scale or mode, most frequently the octatonic scale (though usage of other formed scales are possible in the "strict style" as well), presenting different transpositions of this scale in different sections of the given composition, with virtually no deviation from this horizontal scale and almost no incursions of "dissonant" tones, not pertaining to the scale. This harmonic style is achieved by utilizing only the major and the chain scalar-modal-units, which in their purely horizontal aspects emphasize the octatonic scale. The "free harmonic style" involves usage of a greater amount "dissonant" pitches, avoids strict adherence to any one harmonic scale, such as the octatonic scale (except in certain sections when they are needed for structural and dramatic emphasis) and either uses the regular scalar-modal units (such as the major and minor) in a freer manner, making greater usage of all the dissonant intervals or uses more irregular constructions of scalar-modal-units and at times even combinations of several scalar-modal-units simultaneously in one piece or section of composition, allowing a greater freedom of pitch and oscillations between modal centricity and freer purely chromatic harmonies, bordering on complete atonality.
   In all of Protopopoff's compositions these "double-scalar-modal units" or "double-scalar-modal-units" are notated above the beginning of the section involved on an auxiliary fragments of staves as a means of indication and clarification for the analysis of the harmony of a given composition. In the large-scale compositions, first of all in the three piano sonatas, the schemes of the double-scalar-modal-units are presented in the beginning of each section of the work, in which a new form of a scalar-modal unit or a new transposition of the preceding form. In the smaller compositions, most notably in the songs, only one scalar-modal unit is used, which is carried out throughout the entire composition. A very complex type of scalar-modal unit, quite irregular in its structure, is used in the song for soprano and piano "The Hermit Fox", set to folk texts of the Arkhangelsk region of Russia. Two double-scalar-modal units, symmetrically distant from each other by the interval of a tritone, form one more complex form of a scalar-modal unit forming a "double-double-scalar-modal-unit," which could even be called a "quadruple-scalar-modal-unit". The first half of each "double-scalar-modal-unit" consists of two dominant progressions, forming a "chain progression," while the second half of each "double-scalar-modal-unit" presents two subdominant progressions and resolutions, forming a conjunction of two double systems of the octatonic scale (Example 12).
   In itself each of the two individual "double-scalar-modal-units" presents itself as the basis of a minor seventh chord C-Eb-G-Bb and its tritone transposition F#-A#-C#-E (formed from the lowest notes in all the consonant ditones), which does not form a regular symmetrical type of scalar-modal-unit. Nevertheless the lowest pitches of the first halves of each respective "double-scalar-modal-units" form respectively the chords C-Eb-F#-A (Example 13) and F#-A-C-Eb (Example 14), which brings out the hidden symmetries of this unusual scalar-modal unit.
   Obviously as a result in "The Hermit Fox" a much greater amount of modal freedom is achieved in terms of a greater availability of pitches and pitch correlation, resulting from a greater amount of "dissonant" tones present in the structure of the scalar-modal unit. This does not presume, though, an absence of structural correlation nor that atonal "anarchy" is present, but that a greater chain of levels of "modality" is present and a greater amount of gradations from a strict adherence to the octotonic scale (formed from a horizontal spreading out of the major and/or chain scalar-modal-units) through a whole scale of deviations from it by means of "dissonant" passing tones, various types of "subsidiary" modal-scalar units and a more or less free type of "atonality" achieved by the means of the first two elements. The latter does not present itself in a dominating form and does not infringe on the sovereignty of the "quadruple-scalar-modal-unit" but shows itself in the role of its "polar antithesis".
   In addition to the songs, the most important and significant compositions, written by Protopopoff in the 1920's, are the three piano sonatas. The First Piano Sonata, completed in 1920 and published as opus 1, dedicated to his teacher, Boleslav Yavorsky, is a three movement work, where the new harmonic system, already present in full, is successfully combined with yet a more traditional Romantic Lisztian type of piano textures and more or less standard classical sonata forms. The Third Sonata, finished in 1928 and dedicated to the memory of Leonardo da Vinci, presents itself as the most large-scale and brilliant composition, both in terms of piano textures and in terms of applying his teacher's theoretical system; in this work Protopopoff achieves the highest level of excellency and mastery in the usage of a great variety of textural means for the piano as well as the demonstration of the expressive means of "constructivist" and "cubist" trends in music. The Sonata is written in a "free style" in terms of application of Yavorsky's scalar-modal-units, where, similarly to the song "The Hermit Fox," a greater amount of freedom is achieved in terms of deviating from a given strict horizontal scale by means of using a greater amount of scalar-modal-units with greater amount of dissonant notes, which, when applied in composition, make up for freer usage of the complete chromatic spectrum by means of greater amount of gradations between consonant and dissonant non-harmonic pitches and the resolution of the latter into the former. In certain sections one could find a stricter adherence to the octatonic scale (Example 15) while in other sections there is a greater drive toward free atonality, where, nevertheless, the connection with the dominating modality is kept (Example 16).
   In the Second Sonata, which we shall examine in greater detail, despite strong influences of Scriabin's music, the individual traits of Protopopoff's mature style are already present. The composition was completed in 1924 and, likewise to the First Sonata, dedicated to Yavorsky. From the perspective of harmonic language, the Second Sonata is written in a more "strict style" than the First and Third Sonatas. It incorporates the octotonic scale, derived from the "complete major" and the "chain scalar-modal-units" almost throughout the whole composition with a minimal amount of "deviations" into the domain of "auxiliary" pitches, which, nevertheless, are very important in the context of the structural development of the Sonata.
   The Sonata contains nine sections and, hence, nine transpositions of respectively the major and the chain scalar-modal units. A presentation of all nine indications of the scalar-modal-units, as presented at the beginning of each section by means of the auxiliary fragments of staves, could be demonstrated here, being at the same time the plan of the harmonic system of the entire Sonata (Example 17). Many of these sections are precede by supplementary sub-sections, serving either as introductions or as tail-pieces to the individual sections; they are rhythmically unmetered and feature rumbling passages of parallel chords or ditones (starting out with ditones of parallel fifths in the first few sections and then deviating to other intervals as well as fuller chords) (Example 18). These passages with the parallel fifths obviously present the most clear deviations from the "strict style" of the octatonic scale and the usage of "dissonant tones," though in this context, the rather simple usage of the "dissonant tones" as parallel tones to the "consonant" harmonic tones presents a rather elementary almost textbook demonstration of "dissonance" to perspective future scholars of Yavorsky's theory.
   The basic "melodic" line of the passage does not extend the boundaries of the octatonic scale, while the pitches in the doubling lines correspond not only to "passing dissonant" tones, which are present in Yavorsky's double-scalar-modal units, but also to the two parallel transpositions of the octatonic scale, derived from the horizontal presentation of the complete major scalar-modal unit.
   Throughout all of the Sonata's nine main sections, the concept of modal (in terms of the octatonic scale with almost no "passing dissonant" tones) and thematic unity is carried out in full. The primary motive of the Sonata, consisting of an ascending minor second and a descending major third, is developed according to the principle of monothematicism (Example 19).
   Despite the virtually complete absence of direct usage of sonata form in this work, the latter is present in a more modified form: the first three sections of the work could in general terms be likened to an exposition of a sonata. They are connected by their exclusive usage of complete major scalar-modal-units, whereas all the following sections, with the exception of the last, incorporate the chain scalar-modal units, which are much less stable "tonally." The recapitulatory function of the ninth and final section is emphasized by a return to the usage of the complete major scalar-modal-unit in the primary "tonality" (Bb-E).
   The allusions to sonata form in this composition could be continued to be brought out in terms of the descriptive qualities of the textural usage in each of the respective sections. In the first section of the Second Sonata, after the initial introductory passage the primary theme is presented in a heroic, bravura passage, common to many primary theme groups of standardly formed sonatas (the author's remark written in Italian - "apello, minacioso" i.e. "calling out, soaring") (Example 20). The passage is 15 measures long, not including the first long unmetered passage featuring the introduction.
   In the second section, after its respective introductory passage, the main theme is presented in a more lyrical and calm manner, which is frequently associated with subsidiary theme groups (the author's remark: "dolcissimo, soave, accarezzando" i.e. "very sweetly, suavely, caressing") (Example 21). This section utilizes the complete major scalar-modal-unit with the tonality of D-Ab.
   The third section resembles a conclusory theme group in its further elaboration of the calm textures and mood, presenting the main theme echoed by a discant canonic imitation a major sixth above the main melody. Here the "complete major scalar-modal-unit" is presented in a different transposition (F#-C), suggesting an autonomous musical clause. The third section ends with a louder dynamic mark with more dynamic chordal and arpeggiated piano textures, suggesting a completion of a large section of the composition.
   A change of the scalar-modal-unit type and the incursions of contrasting restless-dramatic passages in the fourth section clearly resemble a beginning of a development section of a sonata form. This effect is enhanced by the juxtaposition resembling a "confrontation" between more diminuted fragments, some of which resemble the introductory passages and others resemble the previous main sections with a full-textured statement of the leading motive, each of these contrasting fragments becoming slightly longer with each presentation. This section switches to the chain scalar-modal-unit with the tonality of Eb-A (or Eb-F#-A-C). The fifth section is texturally much more sparse and emotionally calmer and utilizes polyphonic means of development, presenting an extreme contrast to the preceding and the following sections. The chain scalar-modal-unit is presented in the tonality of Db-G (or Db-E-G-Bb). The sixth section, the most dramatic in the whole Sonata in its character, presents a gradual movement towards a climax, resembling a slow march with a steady march accompaniment in the left hand, emphasizing the adherence to the theory of the "double-scalar-modal-units" by its insistence on the two pitches of C and F#, two important pitches in this section returning to the tonality of Eb-A as presented by the chain scalar-modal-unit. The whole section has two regularly changing meters of 3/4 and 5/4, a steady crescendo from the dynamic mark of pp to that of fff, and presents images of a lofty, grandiose and at the same time fantastically-grotesque procession (the author's remark: "maestoso, elevato" i.e. "with majesty, in an elevated manner".) The unmetered introductory passage is here presented as a coda to the sixth section, dispelling the heightened drama of its music.
   The structural functions of the seventh and eighth sections are less explicitly clear. In terms of harmonic design (i.e. by their continued usage of the chain scalar-modal-units) and their texturally and emotionally episodic character, they resemble more of episodes within the structure of the development section, though in the context of the large-scale form of the composition as well as their thematic usage and development of the main motive of the piece they could likewise be associated with the "conclusory" and "subsidiary theme groups" in a reverse recapitulation of a sonata form. Both sections lack the unmetered introductory arpeggiated passages. The seventh section, incorporating the tonality of E-Bb (or E-G-Bb-Db) of the chain scalar-modal-unit, presents a scherzo type of texture with many grace-notes and light arpeggiated textures. The eighth section, returning to the Eb-A tonality of the chain scalar-modal unit, is slow, lyrical and features a chorale-type texture, each chord introduced with free-rhythm arpeggios. This section likewise has a regularly changing succession of 3/4 and 5/4 meters.
   The ninth section, presented in the "tonic" Bb-E tonality of the major scalar-modal unit, starts with an introductory unmetered, arpeggiated passage, after which the section proper presents a curiously eclectic mixture of textures, starting with the heroic, bravura presentation of the main theme as in the first section, (demonstrating this section's definite recapitulatory function), which after two measures turns into a grotesque scherzo dance with extended unmetered measures. The initial bravura theme returns a second tone only to be interrupted once more with the same humorous scherzo-like passage after which the main theme returns for the third and last time, followed by a recurrence of the introductory unmetered arpeggiated passage presented as a coda to the ninth section and the whole Sonata, finishing off the whole work in a loud dramatic textural flurry.
   In its form, resembling that of a sonata form with a reverse recapitulation as well as by it emotional moods the Sonata has some similarities with Scriabin's "Prometheus". Nevertheless Protopopoff's aesthetical position still distances itself from both direct application of sonata form and from direct dramatically-descriptive means of expression, inherent in the music of late Romanticism. Many of the musical problems of formal development and the juxtaposition of the various musical sections are solved by Protopopoff in a strictly structural and cerebral manner. Especially noticeable are the differences in the interpretation of the apotheosis in the final section of Scriabin's "Prometheus" with that of the final, ninth section in Protopopoff's Second Sonata, which carries out the same function - it seems to give, purposely and with a large amount of irony, a reinterpretation of the concept of the climax in "Prometheus," which in this case is carried out with the means of the more constructive musical language of the 1920's.
   In this manner, holding on to the connections with the spiritual and musical quests of his time (the latter in terms of a search for new modal and harmonic musical systems) and successfully combining in his music many elements of the various diverse artistic trends and movements of his time Sergei Protopopoff organically obtained a rightful position in the history of music. The position, which he obtained was by no means constricted by the dogmas of Yavorsky's theory but rather greatly inspired in a creative manner by the newly opening perspectives which they had to offer.

top of document