Gerard Schwarz examines the life of this impolitic composer who lived in the political world of revolutionary Russia. Prokofiev's failure to interest himself in political realities, together with his tremendous confidence in his own genius, led him to ignore the darkening climate for artists in the Soviet Union. When the Soviets arrested his first wife on charges of spying, Prokofiev issued a public apology for his failure to write in an appropriate socialist style.
According to Aaron Copland, who met Prokofiev several times in the 1920s, "He was boyish, easily bored, and even impolite at times... He was very bright and outspoken, and I can't imagine that he would ever hide how he felt about anything." Once, when accompanying a singer in a performance of his songs, he reduced her to tears by berating her effort in front of the audience.
Schwarz uses musical excerpts from Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony, Piano Concerto No. 3, and Romeo and Juliet to demonstrate how Prokofiev avoided the large scale and sweeping gestures of late-Romantic orchestral music in favor of lean sonorities, textural clarity, and concise architecture.