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About this Piece

Prokofiev originally wrote the Five Melodies as vocalises for the Ukrainian soprano Nina Koshetz in 1920. This was two years after he fled the October Revolution in a sort of self-imposed exile and was trying to establish himself in the U.S. as a pianist and composer. He spent much of that year with his opera The Love for Three Oranges, preparing its Chicago premiere. When that was acrimoniously postponed, Prokofiev accepted some concert dates in California, where he did most of the work on the Five Melodies. “I am as ecstatic about California as it is about me,” he wrote from Los Angeles.

Prokofiev finally conducted the premiere of his opera in 1921, with Koshetz singing the role of Fata Morgana, and that year they also gave the premiere of some of the Five Melodies in New York. Prokofiev found the set of five wordless songs impractical for regular performance however, and in 1925 he recomposed these exquisitely shaped, sharply characterized miniatures for violin and piano. He adapted them very idiomatically – double stops, pizzicatos, harmonics, and all – for the violin, and gave the first performance with Pawel Kochánski. (Prokofiev also orchestrated one of the songs, and later arranged another for solo piano.)

—John Henken