10 May 2013

Curtain Raiser: Prokofiev - Symphony No 5

From the collecton Curtain Raiser
Portrait of Prokofiev 1934

Portrait of Prokofiev 1934 Photo: Petr Petrovic Konchalovsky, Public Domain


Sergei Prokofiev's 'Symphony No 5 in B flat' was certainly composed in war-time Soviet Russia but is it anguished? heroic? victorious?

“The symphony crowns a great period of my work. I have thought of it as glorifying the human soul. In the Fifth Symphony I wanted to sing the praises of the free and happy man – his strength, his generosity and the purity of his soul. I cannot say I chose this theme; it was born in me and had to express itself.”

Prokofiev conducted the premiere of his Fifth Symphony in 1944 and within months it was also being performed in America and the composer was on the cover of TIME magazine.

Biographer Daniel Jaffé says: “The rugged lyricism of the symphony and the apparent hilarity of its finale whipped the audience into a frenzy… It seemed that Prokofiev had sealed his reputation as a leading composer in the Soviet Union.”

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