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Although the Russian Revolution was raging at the time, Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D major (1916-17) shows in its carefree style no evidence of the political upheavals that would affect the whole world, and ultimately, the composer and his music. This symphony is in fact a retrospective glance to the 18th century; the composer once explained: “It seemed to me that if Haydn had lived into this century, he would have retained his own style of writing while absorbing certain things from newer music. I wanted to write the kind of symphony that would have such a style.” Prokofiev incorporates his own harmonic language with distinctively modern progressions and angular melodic lines, synchronizing old and new styles into a vital artistic product. In fact, Prokofiev’s First Symphony represents one of the earliest examples of 20th-century Neoclassicism.
The symphony commences with a light and joyous Allegro. The second movement Larghetto, sounding almost like a stately Pavane, is charmingly graceful. Instead of the usual Minuet, the third movement is an elegant Gavotte in well-defined quadruple meter, and the Molto vivace provides a joyful and lively finale in the best Classical tradition of last movements.
The two-piano transcription played tonight was made by Rikuya Terashima.
-- Notes by Ileen Zovluck; © 1998 and 2001, Columbia Artists Management, Inc.