From the deceptively simply Classical Symphony No 1, written during the first world war, to the Symphony No 7 written a year before his death in 1953, Prokofiev’s symphonies are distinguished by their instantly appealing melodies with a strong Russian folk thread, and their colourful orchestration.
At two of the three daily concerts, the orchestra is joined by the Hungarian violinist Kristóf Baráti, who plays the composers two vivacious and elegiac violin concertos. The attractive First, started in 1915, was dismissed by one sceptic as “Mendelssohnian”, hardly a criticism today, when the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is one of the most popular in the repertoire. The Second, a truly international work in its intention and execution, was given its world premiere in Madrid in 1935, the year of its composition, and its first British performance a year later.
This world compass was typical of the composer who fled his homeland following the Russian Revolution and lived in the US, Paris and Germany before returning to Russia in 1936. His second Symphony, which he named Iron and Steel was premiered in Paris in 1925. A brilliant composer of ballet music and opera besides, in his Third and Fourth Symphonies Prokofiev drew respectively on his opera The Fiery Angel and the ballet The Prodigal Son.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra premiered his Fourth Symphony in 1930. Disturbed by the run-up to the second world war, it was 14 years before the composer completed his Fifth Symphony, played by the Mariinsky in its original 1930 version. The USSR State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer gave its premiere in its final version Moscow in 1945, with the children's tale Peter and the Wolf.
The Symphony No 6 was first performed in Leningrad in 1947 and condemned the following year by the Soviet government for not conforming to party lines,
The Seventh, premiered in St. Petersburg in 1952 by the Leningrad Philharmonic and conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky, features a balletic waltz that calls to mind his dance music for Cinderella.
The symphony cycle forms part of worldwide celebrations marking 125 years since the composer’s birth on 23 April 1891. Hugely appealing and approachable, the symphonies gain from the composer’s own ruthless insistence on brevity: "What can be worse than a long symphony?” he wrote to a fellow composer. "In my opinion, a symphony should ideally last 20 minutes, or 30 maximum. I am trying to write mine as compactly as possible.”
Truly, the Prokofiev symphonies demonstrate that less is more.
|What||Complete Prokofiev Symphonies, Cadogan Hall|
|Where||Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, London , SW1X 9DQ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Sloane Square (underground)|
26 Sep 16 – 28 Sep 16, 7:30 PM – 10:30 PM
|Price||£10 - £45|
|Website||Click here for further information and booking|