SERGEI PROKOFIEV Symphony No . 1 , op . 25 , “ Classical ”
“ There are so many beautiful things to be said in C Major .” – Prokofiev
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
Born 1891 in Sontsovka , Russia ; died 1953 in Moscow , Russia
• Inspired by hearing his mother practice the piano , Prokofiev wrote his first piece when he was just five years old .
• He developed an interest in experimental music and started exploring dissonant harmonies and unconventional rhythms .
• In his teenage years , Prokofiev was accepted to the St . Petersburg Conservatory where he was viewed by his colleagues as self-important and eccentric . Apparently , he used to keep statistics on fellow student ’ s errors — a sure way to make friends !
• Prokofiev made a name for himself in the St . Petersburg music scene for his modern and rebellious music , which shocked some but delighted others .
• As Prokofiev gained notoriety , he was introduced to Sergei Diaghilev , the famous impresario and choreographer who also worked closely with Stravinsky . Diaghilev commissioned Prokofiev to write several ballets . The premiere of his first ballet , The Buffoon , was received with admiration . Stravinsky , who was in attendance , even claimed it was “ the single piece of modern music he could listen to with pleasure ,” and Ravel referred to it as “ a work of genius .”
• During his years in Russia , Prokofiev had to endure censorship and harsh scrutiny from authorities . In the late 1940s , he was denounced , and much of his music was banned from being played , which led to financial hardship for the composer .
• Prokofiev died on the same day as Joseph Stalin , which made the arrangements for his funeral difficult . Only 30 people attended his funeral , one of whom was Shostakovich .
Prokofiev and Stravinsky maintained a long-lasting , if at times tumultuous , friendship ( frenemies ?). Although on the whole they admired each other , Prokofiev once called Stravinsky ’ s music “ Bach on the wrong notes ,” and Stravinsky once criticized Prokofiev for “ wasting his time writing operas ” after hearing a draft Prokofiev was working on – a comment that nearly led to a fist fight .
THE WORLD AT A GLANCE
MUSIC Ella Fitzgerald , Dizzy Gillespie , and Thelonious Monk are all born
LITERATURE The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded
ART Georgia O ’ Keeffe ’ s Light Coming on the Plains
ABOUT THE PIECE
• Prokofiev ’ s first symphony was written in 1917 . He wished for the piece to emulate what Mozart or Haydn would have written if they had been his contemporaries .
• A bold composer who liked to experiment with unusual harmonies , Prokofiev wished to “ stir up a hornet ’ s nest .” He wrote of the work in his diary : “ When our classically inclined musicians and professors ( to my mind faux-classical ) hear this symphony , they will be bound to scream in protest at this new example of Prokofiev ’ s insolence , look how he will not let Mozart lie quiet in his grave but must come prodding at him with his grubby hands .”
SCIENCE The proton is discovered
HISTORY The October Revolution in Russia
6 BALTIMORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA