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“Visions Fugitives”: Glimpses into Prokofiev's Compositional Development From 1915–1917

Laryssa Davis, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Inspired by the poetry of Konstantin Balmont (1867–1942), twenty-four year old Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953) began composing a set of miniatures in 1915 that would eventually be published as the Visions Fugitives . The enigmatic title suggests that each miniature evokes a specific image or character. The set was premiered by Prokofiev in Kislovodsk on October 14, 1917. At the time of publication (1917), Prokofiev ordered the twenty short pieces in a non-chronological manner, maximizing their inherent dramatic contrasts in performance. When viewed in chronological order, however, these miniatures clearly show the transformation of Prokofiev's compositional language—from the frequent tonal textures of his earliest works to recognizable elements of atonality and an increased chromaticism in the later ones. This document examines the Visions Fugitives from a chronological viewpoint, categorizing the set into three distinct groups based on the year of composition. My study contributes to the international body of scholarly research by drawing upon a number of previously untranslated Soviet sources, making the case for performance of this work based on a chronological ordering of the individual pieces. My expertise in the Russian language was very helpful in translating from the Soviet sources. In addition, it examines the significant historical and political dynamics that impacted the composer's musical development from 1915 to 1917. The first chapter introduces the biographical highlights of Sergei Prokofiev and historical facts related to the composition of Visions Fugitives . Chapter two presents an examination of the musical characteristics according to character, formal design, dynamics, tempo, melody, and harmony. Chapter three categorizes the set into three distinct, chronologically ordered groups (1915, 1916, and 1917). An analysis identifies the traits unique to each group, comparing and contrasting the groups and showing how Prokofiev began to find his musical voice in the Visions Fugitives. The conclusion summarizes the evolution of Prokofiev's compositional style, influenced by the other arts in the environment of 1915–1917, and explains the significance of Visions Fugitives with regard to twentieth century piano literature.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Davis, Laryssa, "“Visions Fugitives”: Glimpses into Prokofiev's Compositional Development From 1915–1917" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3465165.