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SERGEI V. PROTOPOPOV: The Post-Scriabin Composer

"Sergei Vladimirovich Protopopov was born in Moscow on March 21, 1893 and died in Moscow on December 14, 1954. He studied first at Moscow University in the faculty of medicine, and then music with the noted Russian theorist B. L. Yavorsky, at the Kiev Conservatoire, from where he graduated in 1921. Protopopov earned his living as a conductor (including some work at the Bolshoi Theater) as well as a faculty member at the Moscow Conservatoire. In his composition and teaching he was an enthusiastic advocate of Yavorsky's theories of modal rhythm, and his three large-scale piano sonatas make a point of indicating the modal movement and parent tritones, at the head of each section of the sonata in small print. There is also some vocal music.

Piano Sonata #1, op. 1

Piano Sonata #2, op. 5

Piano Sonata #3, op. 6

"Although Yavorsky presented his "Structure of Musical Speech" in 1908, it was not until 1931 that Protopopov, working under the guidance of his teacher, set forth his very thorough exposition of Yavorsky's ideas. The basis of the theory is the universal need of the tritone to resolve, due to its unstable nature. The theory is of course based on tonal precepts and does not admit the possible existence of the unresolved tritone within a harmonic scheme. However, Protopopov delved into the possibilities of microtones in his book, involving systems of 18-, 24-, and 26-step scales, including notation, and eventually pursuing the idea as far as 72 steps in the octave. It is not known whether Protopopov the composer, rather than the theorist, actually attempted to put this idea into practice. Like Schillinger, Protopopov, in a less systematic way, suggested that the principles of modal rhythm could be applied to other arts. Ironically, Protopopov's work came too late. Lunacharsky presided over a conference on the Theory of Modal Rhythm in 1930, and the theory was given support. Only a year later, at yet another conference, and in the prevailing climae, the theory was found to be insufficiently Marxist. The two conferences coincided with the appearance of the two-volume Protopopov work explaining Yavorsky's hypothesis from 1908. After this, the theory, and with it Protopopov's book and his career as a composer, fell into obscurity.

A very intresting composer. Thoughts?
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