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Remembering a great Prokofievian | reviews, news & interviews

Remembering a great Prokofievian

Remembering a great Prokofievian

Remembering a vivacious force in Prokofiev studies

Noëlle Mann: A vivacious force in Prokofiev studies

She did more to make Prokofiev remembered and reassessed than most of the great performers.

Noëlle Mann, who died earlier this year from cancer at the age of 63, was the doyenne of Prokofiev studies: vivacious guardian of the Prokofiev Archive at Goldsmiths College - without which the fresh research in the first volume of my Prokofiev biography would not have been possible - and editor of the impeccably produced journal Three Oranges; instigator of the Centre for Russian Music, now in the expert hands of Alexander Ivashkin; and passionate driving force behind numerous events, conferences and concert series. On 8 December she will be remembered in a memorial concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Distinguished performer-friends in attendance will trigger many happy memories for some of us. American pianist Barbara Nissman, who launches the concert, came over for several events - including the "Prokofiev and America" conference at Senate House, where she made an unforgettable connection between the glissando that launches Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and the piano's entry in the first variation of Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto (Gershwin was an admirer). Ivashkin, one of Russia's finest living cellists, will be partnered by Dmitri Alexeev; they both reprise performances they gave at the 2003 50th anniversary concert at St John's Smith Square, organised by Noëlle. And I can tell you from Alexeev's performance of the terrifying Sixth Sonata then that you won't hear a more mesmerising interpretation.

Noëlle's work as an adored teacher at Goldsmiths will be reflected in a student performance of Prokofiev's apocalyptic cantata Seven, they are Seven, sure to raise the roof of the QEH, and an important reflection of her active research in the sphere of Russian choral music in which the Goldsmiths Chamber Choir will be joined by older voices from the Kalina Choir Noëlle also ran in between countless other commitments (yes, I'm proud to have been a member).

All reason enough to go and hear a terrific concert. But for those of us who knew her, it will feel as if Noëlle is there in person. Her energy and commitment remained undiminished even when she knew she was dying; on a last visit, I found her full of determination to tie up loose ends and ensure the continuation of both archive and journal. As a Russian colleague noted in a string of wonderful comment-tributes on my blog homage, "such people never die". Proceeds from the concert go to Marie Curie Cancer Care.

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