Simon Morrison

Simon Morrison

Fellow: Awarded 2011
Field of Study: Music Research

Competition: US & Canada

Princeton University

Simon Morrison is Professor of Music History at Princeton University, where he earned his Ph.D. in musicology. He specializes in Russian music, with broader interests in the twentieth century that encompass French music, early Modernism, opera, film music, and dance. A leading authority on composer Sergey Prokofiev, Morrison has conducted extensive archival research in St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Paris, New York, London, and especially Moscow.

He is the author most recently of The People’s Artist (Oxford, 2009), a definitive account of Prokofiev’s career after his fateful return to the Soviet Union in 1936. Setting aside speculation in favor of scholarship, Morrison rewrites the history of the composer’s Soviet years based on exclusive access to closed files at the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RGALI) in Moscow and exhaustive research at six other Russian federal archives. He also edited the volume Prokofiev and His World (Princeton, 2008), which includes his translation of nearly a hundred letters between Prokofiev and one of his closest colleagues. Among his other publications are a monograph, Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement (California, 2002), articles and essays in leading scholarly journals, and features for The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. With the support of the Guggenheim Foundation, he has just completed a biography of Lina Prokofiev using exclusive archival materials. That book will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013. He is also working on a book on Shostakovich for Norton.

Morrison often translates his archival findings into new productions. In 2005 he oversaw the recreation of Prokofiev’s ballet Le Pas d’Acier at Princeton University, and in 2007 he co-produced a world-premiere staging of Alexander Pushkin’s drama Boris Godunov featuring Prokofiev’s incidental music and Vsevolod Meyerhold’s directorial concepts. In 2008, Morrison restored the scenario and score of the original (1935) version of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet for the Mark Morris Dance Group. The project involved rearranging the order and adjusting the content of acts I–III as well as orchestrating some twenty minutes of previously unheard music for act IV, which features a surprising happy ending. This version of the ballet was premiered on July 4, 2008, toured widely, and was staged in New York City at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater in May 2009. He has also produced revivals of John Alden Carpenter’s jazz-ballet Krazy Kat and Debussy’s La Boîte à Joujoux, the latter using archival materials newly discovered in Moscow. In February 2011 he oversaw the international conference “After the End of Music History,” dedicated to Richard Taruskin.


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