Piano World Home Page
Posted By: Ainar Maximilian Schmidthof - 09/30/15 07:47 AM
I have been trying to find out more about Maximilian Schmidthof, Prokofiev's friend from the St Petersburg conservatory who committed suicide and to whom Prokofiev dedicated several pieces, including the second piano concerto and the second sonata. Listening to the second concerto, especially this passionate performance by Severin von Eckardstein, makes me want to learn more about this friend. (Although his suicide occurred in the middle of the concerto's composition, and was therefore not the immediate inspiration for it, it is believed that his death influenced the concerto's subsequent revision after the score had been destroyed, which produced a work "so completely rewritten").

All I could find was that Schmidthof was a pianist, Prokofiev's colleague at the conservatory and his best friend at the time. They shared a passionate friendship and exchanged letters. On April 27 1913, Prokofiev received the following note from Max, "relaying the latest news to you- I have shot myself". He shot himself in a forest in Finland. On May 9, Prokofiev wrote in his diary,
"‘Eyes open and both temples soaked in blood...’ Max had been sure of himself; he had not batted an eyelid and his hand was steady. The bullet went straight through the right temple and out through the left. A good shot. Bravo.

"Returning home I inscribed on the score of the Second Piano Concerto: ‘To the memory of Maximilian Anatolievich Schmidthof.’ Tomorrow I shall put on a black tie and wear it in mourning for my friend."
(From the program notes by David Nice, for the recording by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, 2004).

In one masterclass I attended, I remember it being said that Schmidthof killed himself because he could never be the pianist he wanted to be, one as good as Prokofiev. But this is impossible to verify. Does anyone have access to any more information about him, perhaps in a Prokofiev biography? Who he was, and why he shot himself? Was it personal? Political? One writer suggests (according to Prokofiev's widow) that Schmidthof was gay and that Prokofiev "had such tendencies", although it is doubted that he had an affair with a man.
© Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums