PROKOFIEV

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Glow in the Dark Concert on October 27, 2012

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PROKOFIEV SYMPHONY NO. 5:

PROKOFIEV SYMPHONY NO. 5 Abilene Philharmonic Glow in the Dark October 27, 2012

Sergei Prokofiev :

Sergei Prokofiev

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Prokofiev was born on April 23, 1891 in Sontsovka (now the village of Krasnoe), Ukraine 1891-1953

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"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,“ said Prokofiev.

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The score calls for two flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, military drum, cymbals, harp, piano and strings. Timing: approximately 46 minutes.

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Symphony no. 5 consists of four movements: arranged in a slow—fast—slow—fast pattern

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The symphony was completed in a single month after not writing a symphony for 15 years.

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His home life following marriage to his second wife four years earlier was content and fulfilling; he was the most famous and often-performed of all Soviet composers.

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"It is a symphony about the spirit of man, a song of praise of free and happy mankind."

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“I wrote my Fifth Symphony in the summer of 1944 and I consider my work on this symphony very significant both because of the musical material put into it and because I returned to the symphonic form after a 16-year interval. The Fifth Symphony completes, as it were, a long period of my works. I conceived it as a symphony of the greatness of the human spirit.”

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Soviet music during this war time "was meant to console and uplift, to encourage and exhort; nothing else mattered."

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"It is the duty of the composer, like the poet, the sculptor or the painter, to serve his fellow men, to beautify human life and point the way to a radiant future. Such is the immutable code of art as I see it."

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The symphony was composed at the height of World War II, in the House of Creative Work, a government-sponsored refuge for composers.

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Prokofiev shared this refuge with such composers as Shostakovitch, Glazunov, Khachaturian, and Kabalevsky.

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Prokofiev was pictured on the cover of TIME magazine the week after the symphony’s American premiere .

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Prokofiev’s father was an agricultural engineer who managed the estate of Sontsovka and his mother, though born a serf, was a well-educated woman with a broad knowledge of the arts. (Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism , specifically relating to manoralism.)

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In the autumn of 1904 the thirteen- year-old Prokofiev passed the entrance exams for the St. Petersburg Conservatory; he entered the school much younger than most of his classmates.

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He studied composition with notable teachers such as Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

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In the autumn of 1918 the twenty-seven-year-old Prokofiev immigrated to the United States and was immediately compared to his predecessor Rachmaninoff. Though after attempts at concerts and other engagements Prokofiev did not find the same success.

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Prokofiev described his time in the United States as miserable, but despite this sentiment, he was actually fairly productive.

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New York - Classical Symphony and his First Piano Concerto were performed with the emigrant ensemble the “Russian Orchestra”

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Chicago- he had performances of the Scythian Suite and the First Piano Concerto. In 1919 , he met the conductor of the Chicago Opera , Cleofonte Campanini which led to his commission for the opera The Love for Three Oranges.

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From this time on Prokofiev regularly appeared in American concert halls, giving approximately sixty to seventy concerts a year from 1918 - 1922 .

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Unfortunately by this time in Russia, the return meant that he was required to follow certain conventions in his compositions. 1936- Prokofiev returns to Russia

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By the late 1920s the communist party had begun to view the most recent artistic movements, such as formalism, impressionism, and cubism as decadent, since they existed before the revolution.

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Under the Soviet government a special bureau was created, the Composers’ Union, to keep track of artists and their works. The works created under the Stalinist government had to eschew all aspects of modernism and be explicitly focused on the doctrine of “socialist realism,” which relied heavily on the imagery of art depicting and glorifying the proletariat's struggle toward socialist progress.

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The Fifth Symphony was composed in short score at lightning speed within a single month in 1944, though Prokofiev admitted collecting material for the work for some time on the sketch pads he always carried to jot down ideas as they occurred to him.

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Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony is characterized by a rich vein of melody combined with his distinctively pungent harmonic palette in full, sturdy scoring.

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The First Movement

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The opening movement is a large sonata form in moderate tempo that begins without introduction.

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The wide-ranging main theme is presented simply by flute and bassoon before being taken up by the strings.

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An arched-shaped complementary idea is given by tuba and other low instruments, and is combined with the main theme.

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The flute and oboe sing the lyrical second theme above a trembling, arpeggiated accompaniment in the strings.

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Two brief motives close the exposition. One, characterized by its dotted rhythms, arrives on the crest of the movement's first climax; the other is an angular, skittish fragment tossed off by high woodwinds, violins and cellos.

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The development, which rises from the low strings through the entire orchestra, gives prominence in its first portion to the opening theme and the skittish motive from the end of the exposition; it later focuses on the second theme and the arch-shaped complementary melody.

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The recapitulation is heralded by the stentorian sounds of the brass choir announcing the main theme.

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The movement is capped by a majestic coda that grows from the low summons of the trombones and tuba, buttressed by the rumbling of the bass drum and timpani, to an overwhelming wave of sound in its final measures.

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It was this section of the Symphony that most moved the audience at the work's premiere, prompting the composer's biographer, Israel Nestyev, to write, "This is perhaps the most impressive episode of the entire Symphony for it embodies with the greatest clarity the work's highest purpose glorification of the strength and beauty of the human spirit."

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The second movement, the Symphony's scherzo, is one of those pieces that Prokofiev would have classified as "motoric": an incessant two-note rhythmic motive drives the music forward through its entire first section.

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The principal theme arises from the solo clarinet, and much of what follows is a series of loose variations on this cheeky melody.

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The movement's central section is framed by a bold, strutting phrase from the woodwinds adorned with the piquant "wrong notes" that spice so much of Prokofiev's quick music.

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The clarinets and violas play the main theme of this middle section over another mechanized rhythm that gives these pages, despite their triple meter, the nature of a propulsive march.

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The strutting phrase reappears. The following section begins slowly, and, like the stoking of some giant engine, gradually gains momentum until the opening scherzo returns to bring the movement to a riveting close.

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The brooding third movement is in a large three-part design. The outer sections are supported by the deliberate rhythmic tread of the low instruments used as underpinning for a plaintive melody initiated by the clarinets.

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A sweeping theme begun by the tuba serves as the basis for the middle section.

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An extended, searing climax links this section with the return of the plaintive melody high in the strings. The touching coda is suspended in the piccolo and strings high above a shimmering string accompaniment.

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The finale opens with a short introduction comprising two gestures based on the main theme of the first movement: a short woodwind phrase answered by the strings, and a chorale for cellos.

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The main body of the movement is a sonata-rondo propelled by yet another insistent rhythmic motive.

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The movement accumulates a large amount of thematic material as it progresses, though it is the solo clarinet playing the main theme which begins each of the important structural sections of the form.

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A furious, energetic coda ignites several of the movement's themes into a grand closing blaze of orchestral color to conclude one of the supreme orchestral works of the 20th century.

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Andante As the aspiring first subject expands, a soft bass accompaniment becomes a deep undertow disgorging an ominous counter-melody. The mobile second subject, initially over feathery strings, strives valiantly until beset by a harpie all its own. The eerie gloom of the development soon becomes a battle between the internally opposed subject-pairs, ended by horns and trumpets blaring the first subject. As the reprise recedes, the first subject strives mightily to heave itself out of a massive morass. Failing once, it struggles again, but is overcome and yields onto regretful solo strings. Evil erupts triumphantly.

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2. Allegro marcato In his finest balletic vein, Prokofiev rolls out a barrelful of boisterous variations. A sunny song, warbled by woodwind then bedded by lazy strings, enfolds a central episode even more foot-tappingly frolicsome than the first. Then the sky darkens. The initial scherzo reluctantly crawls back in, gradually gathering momentum like some great locomotive. It is driven up to, then beyond its former good spirits into hysteria, impelled by pounding discords - until it runs smack into a brick wall.

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3. Adagio Beginning over a weary vamp, the haunting theme disturbingly seems to ignore the proferred rhythm. 'Twining strings evoke an elegy, alternating with an evolving solemn processional. Repeated notes announce a central section, predominantly a grotesque funeral march whose grim climax is based on that vamp, but otherwise completely inarticulate! Anguish indeed, and once that anguish abates the initial section returns, emerging from the gloom, succeeded by an extended, ethereal coda that sounds like some whisper of a utopian dream.

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4. Allegro giocoso A question, a response. The question again, but a different response: the symphony's opening theme, quietly reminding of bitter strife. This warning is (naturally) ignored as a playful rondo prevails in swirling, chittering main subjects and swooning counter-subject. The counter-subject's fugato emergence from the depths causes some agitation, but the clarinet smooths things over, encouraging the subjects to play another “round”. Suddenly, panic spreads in earnest: the chittering becomes frenetic, the rhythm obsessive. The counter-subject removes its velvet gloves and bludgeons the main subject. Sorely wounded, the playful rhythm is mercilessly driven on, limping and weakening. As a baleful alarm sounds, it runs smack into a brick wall.

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