Prokofiev Day.


Prokofiev Day.

On Sunday, Sept. 7th, I spent some time with the music of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.

When I study music, I’m involved in active listening. The music cannot be “in the background” while I eat or pay bills. When I watch a DVD, my interest is in the orchestration, the way the solo parts are played, and the ability of the orchestral parts to meld together with the soloist’s part. For me, this shows me a tiny part of the composer’s creativity.

Prokofiev began work on the Piano Concerto #3 as early as 1913 when he wrote a theme with variations, which he then set aside. Although he revisited the sketches in 1916–17, he did not fully devote himself to the project until 1921 when he was spending the summer in Brittany.

Prokofiev himself played the solo part at the premiere of this concerto on 16 December 1921 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frederick Stock. The work is wonderful because of its diversity. It opens with a marvelous solo played by the first clarinet.

It does not take long before the composer introduces more rapid rhythms played by both the piano soloist and by the orchestra.

I enjoyed how the composer used the castanets in this piece. The DVD shows the percussion player beating the castanet against his leg; fun to see.

And I imagined that when the concerto was first performed in Vienna, the conservative audience would have found this scoring with castanets to be “ein Skandal”. I personally found it to be very effective. Read HERE if you’d like more detail.

In the afternoon I listened to Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto #2, as performed by violinist Gil Shaham. While this work is another great favorite of mine, I discovered some new things today: The composer uses a tambourine to emphasize the percussive aspect of this work. Here, as in the piano concerto, Prokofiev alternates between themes that are beautifully lyrical and those that are much faster, and more percussive.

This concerto premiered in December, 1935.

Here is Yuja Wang in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Allegro, ma non Troppo:



And next, here is the wonderful second movement from Prokofiev’s violin concerto #2, with Gil Shaham:



Tags: Sergei Prokofiev, piano concerto #3, violin concerto #2, Yuja wang, Gil Shaham, Claudio Abbado