16 February 2014

Sergei Prokofiev - Scythian Suite

The nice thing about being in charge of a 24Classics playlist is that it gives me a reason to both seek out new music and to go through my own collection to find suitable pieces. When your music collection has grown to a certain size sometimes you forget to listen to certain albums for months (… if not years) and the re-discovery tends to be a really happy moment. My most recent one has been Prokofiev's Scythian Suite which I absolutely love. It's fun and loud and full of brassy goodness.

Today I found out that there is a video of my favourite orchestra (the Rotterdam Philharmonic, of course) playing it (conducted by Valery Gergiev), so obviously I have to share it:

It is not the best recording because it's from a VHS tape and therefore a bit grainy, if that annoys you you can go here to see Claudio Abbado and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra play it (also a good version, but not as violent as Gergiev's). 

The Scythian Suite was written by Prokofiev in 1915 (Prokofiev was 24 when he composed it), though in its original form it was a ballet called Ala and Lolli, and it was commissioned and rejected by Diagheliv and the Ballet Russes (why it was rejected is a mystery to me, it's such a good piece). Prokofiev reworked the music into a suite, which consists of four movements and lasts around 20 minutes. It's very fast and energetic for most of these 20 minutes, and calls for a large orchestra which might explain why it's not performed as often as it should be. The piece was eventually premiered in 1916 (the first premiere was cancelled because of a lack of musicians) and apparently was quite a riot. As we can read in my favourite book on music;
"Crashing Siberias, volcano hell, Krakatoa, sea-bottom crawlers. Incomprehensible? So is Prokofiev. A splendid tribute was paid to his Scythian Suite in Petrograd by Glazunov. The poor tortured classicist walked out of the hall during the performance of the work. No one walked out of the Aelian Hall but several respectable pianists ran out."  (Musical America, November 20 1918)
I hope you enjoy it more than Glazunov did.

Other YPGTCM posts on Sergei Prokofiev: Romeo & JulietPiano Concerto No.2Piano Sonata No.6.  

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