Before his departure in 1918 Prokof’ev was fond of taking long walking tours of St. Petersburg with his friends. After he settled in France in the 1920s this hobby took on a new aspect—he bought an enormous car, a second-hand Ballot.
At first he drove around Paris and its environs with his friends, but soon he expanded his scope with trips to the countryside. Sometimes he would plan a route through a selected area and drive off with his wife Lina and some friends to visit historical places and sample the local cuisine. Breakdowns were frequent in those days, and cars were slow, so these trips typically lasted several days.
At the car’s 30th year Prokof’ev replaced the Ballot with a newer and more agile Chevrolet. “Ballot was an old aristocrat” he wrote, “and Chevrolet is a young democrat. It is a thousand times more comfortable to drive in the city and in the mountains, it is mobile and more powerful. But the friendly old Ballot was incomparable on the level road.”
Today is Prokof’ev’s 120th birthday! Above, left to right: Vladimir Sofronitsky, the composer, Vladimir Dukelsky, and Lina Prokof’ev with the Ballot. Below, Svâtoslav Rihter plays Prokof’ev’s Pastoral sonatina, op. 59, no. 3—a work perhaps inspired by such excursions.