by David Pownall

David Pownall - Masterclass

BBC Radio 3

Broadcast: Wednesday 22nd January 1986 at 7:30 p.m.

On a flight from Moscow, writer Masterclass sat next to an elderly English diplomat who had been in Russia in 1948 and heard a rumour that Stalin offered to give Prokofiev a piano lesson. "Master Class" grew out of that rumour.

"Master Class" imagines a meeting in an anteroom of the Kremlin (during the 1948 Conference of Musicians) between Stalin and his cultural enforcer, Zhdanov, and premier Soviet composers Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Uncle Joe is worried that the maestros' music isn't speaking to the people. It lacks melodies, is formalist, bourgeois, depressing. He thinks that a chat might attune the composers' thinking. Of course, as the sweating composers are well aware, one false note and they're likely to end up shot or in Siberia.

The atmosphere is tense as Stalin conducts a droll, deadly game of psychological warfare, which has a surprising and shocking conclusion.

The play was first produced on stage in 1983 at the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester.

With Timothy West [Josef Stalin], Jonathan Adams [Marshall Zhdanov], Peter Kelly [Sergei Prokofiev], and David Bamber [Dmitri Shostakovich]

Music arranged by John White and piano played by members of the cast.

Directed by Martin Jenkins

Re-broadcast on Friday 17th October 1986 at 7:30 p.m. on BBC Radio 3 and Sunday 7th October 1990 at 2:30 p.m. on BBC Radio 4.

90 min.


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