Concerto No. 1 in D for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 19 (1917)
Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953)
- Scherzo – Vivacissimo
Prokofiev was born in Ukraine and died in Moscow on the same day as Lenin. After his return after 15 years abroad following the October revolution, Prokofiev spent the remainder of his career supporting, and lauded by, the Soviet authorities. His first violin concerto had its genesis in his concertino of 1915 and came to fruition in 1917. This was Prokofiev’s most productive year, in which he also produced his Classical Symphony and many other works, despite the upheavals in Russia culminating in the so-called “October Revolution” in November. Prokofiev fled to the USA and eventually settled in Paris, where his first Violin Concerto was premiered in 1923 to a rather lukewarm reception. Used to the jarring modernism of Stravinsky, the Parisian audiences found its lyricism too romantic, one critic damming it as “Mendelssohnian”.
The opening lyrical melody initially played on the solo violin sets the character of the first movement, which ends with a quizzical flute solo. The Scherzo is anything but romantic, featuring avant garde string techniques such as staccato bowing and bowing close to the bridge that amplify its ironically mocking tone, characteristic of Prokofiev. A lyrical violin motif, first heard over a plodding bassoon theme, opens the final movement. Much interplay between the fiery solo violin and orchestra eventually leads to an ethereal coda that ends with the first movement flute solo.
Performed: May/June 2016