mar 6, 7, 8
Program Notes
out of the music for the ballet! I already have the sonata-
allegro, and what a beautiful Andante I could make from
the theme with which the whole ballet now ends!”
He had some qualms about reusing material
commissioned for another work until the conductor
Serge Koussevitzky assured him: “But that’s fine! After
all, Beethoven used material from
for his
Third Symphony.” Prokofiev confessed: “I was thrilled by
this magnificent precedent: no one is going to argue that
Beethoven was a bad symphonist!!!”
Encouraged by a commission from Koussevitzky to
help celebrate the Boston Symphony’s 50th anniversary,
Prokofiev completed the Fourth Symphony
in 1930,
using material written for but not used in
The Prodigal
, as well as some new material. Although the
composer thought highly of the work, it was not a success
at its Boston premiere in November 1930, its European
premiere the following month or its first performance in
the Soviet Union in 1933.
Prokofiev would not return to this work until 17 years
after its composition, by which time much had changed.
He resettled in the Soviet Union in 1936, and just five
years later World War II brought devastation to his
homeland. His wartime Fifth Symphony was a huge
success, and while completing his Sixth during 1947 he
came back to what was clearly a deeply felt passion, his
unsuccessful Fourth.
Now he rewrote it completely, driven by several forces,
particularly the demands of Socialist Realism for music
accessible to a wide audience, and his own wish to work
on a wider, more “symphonic” canvas. He increased
the size of the orchestra, adding piano, harp and more
percussion and winds, and took the symphony through
a massive revision that nearly doubled its length. So
sweeping were these changes that Prokofiev gave the
work a new opus number. The original version had been
Opus 47; the revision now became his Opus 112.
But the symphony’s trials were not over. Before the
revised work could be performed, the Soviet Union
cracked down, accusing its composers of “formalism”
and of writing music unavailable to the masses.
Performances of Prokofiev’s music were banned—and
by the time of his death in 1953, Prokofiev had still not
heard this work; it would be 1957 before the revised
Fourth was performed in the Soviet Union. His more
popular symphonies have overshadowed it for some
years, but recent interest has led to multiple recordings of
both versions. This concert offers the Fourth Symphony
in Prokofiev’s 1947 revision.
the music
Part of Prokofiev’s intention in 1947 was to expand the
original version and to give it a more popular character.
To this end, he composed an introduction to the first
movement, full of sweep and grandeur, before the music
leaps ahead at the precisely-named
Allegro eroico
. This
is music of slashing energy and bright colors, and this
sonata-form movement—whose length was doubled in
the revision—eventually drives to a powerful conclusion.
For the lovely
Andante tranquillo
, which has been
described as a “quasi-gavotte,” Prokofiev drew material
from the
Maiden’s Dance
near the conclusion of the
ballet, as the prodigal son returns home and is taken in
by his father. The music drives to a soaring climax before
falling away to its restrained close. This movement, too,
was expanded to almost twice its original length.
All the material in the third movement, marked
Moderato, quasi allegretto
, was drawn from
The Prodigal
: its slithery, haunting opening melody is associated
with the figure of the temptress in the ballet. Finally, in
Allegro risoluto
, the music begins almost brutally
before proceeding through a series of episodes, some of
them composed specifically for the revision. After all this
energy, the movement drives to a final peroration and a
triumphant close in shining C major.
2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets,
E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon,
4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum,
tambourine, cymbals, snare drum, woodblocks,
triangle, piano, harp and strings
Program notes by
Eric Bromberger
1...,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34 36,37,38,39,40