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String Quartet No.1 in B minor Op.50

Sergei Prokofiev (b. 1891 - d. 1953)

Composer
Sergei Prokofiev (b. 1891 - d. 1953)
Composition Year
1930
Work Movements
1. Allegro
2. Andante molto - Vivace
3. Andante
Artists
N/A

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

In May 1918 Prokofiev, fearing that the chaotic state of revolutionary Russia would have little use for new music, left Petrograd for the USA. He remained there for four years before returning to Europe, where he remained until 1936, when he was persuaded to return to Soviet Russia. Like Shostakovich he was a virtuoso pianist and he made his living as a pianist as well as a composer. In 1929 he had made a disastrous trip to Russia, where his music was denounced and his latest ballet refused a staging. The next year he undertook an extensive tour of North America, during which he accepted the commission for this quartet from the Library of Congress. Much of the work was written on his extended train journeys across the States. It was premiered in Washington the following year.


The quartet opens with a leaping, dancing theme, whose contagious energy dominates the first movement. There is a more severe second subject that acts as a foil to the wildness of the dance. A short slow introduction precedes the spectacular Scherzo vivace, which unleashes some virtuoso displays from the first violin. The Finale is an extended Andante, a remarkable piece of sustained lyrical invention. The composer Nikolai Myaskovsky was full of praise for this movement: First of all, the composition is completely free of effects, something quite surprising for Prokofiev. Secondly there is true profundity in the sweeping melodic line and intensity of the Finale. This movement strikes deep. From a mournfully lyrical beginning the movement builds up to an impassioned climax on a distinctly Slavic theme before collapsing shockingly against a wailing ostinato as the movement winds down tortuously to a desolate coda. His biographer Daniel Jaffé writes: Intentionally or not, this is Prokofiev’s most eloquent expression of despair at being disowned by his own homeland.

Francis Humphrys


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String Quartet No.1 in B minor Op.50

Composer: Sergei Prokofiev (b. 1891 - d. 1953)
Performance date: Saturday 8th July 2017
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Sergei Prokofiev (b. 1891 - d. 1953)
Work Title String Quartet No.1 in B minor Op.50
Composition Year 1930
Work Movements 1. Allegro
2. Andante molto - Vivace
3. Andante
Artist(s) N/A
Performance Date Saturday 8th July 2017
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Young Musician's Platform
Duration 00:24:35
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category String Quartet
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

In May 1918 Prokofiev, fearing that the chaotic state of revolutionary Russia would have little use for new music, left Petrograd for the USA. He remained there for four years before returning to Europe, where he remained until 1936, when he was persuaded to return to Soviet Russia. Like Shostakovich he was a virtuoso pianist and he made his living as a pianist as well as a composer. In 1929 he had made a disastrous trip to Russia, where his music was denounced and his latest ballet refused a staging. The next year he undertook an extensive tour of North America, during which he accepted the commission for this quartet from the Library of Congress. Much of the work was written on his extended train journeys across the States. It was premiered in Washington the following year.


The quartet opens with a leaping, dancing theme, whose contagious energy dominates the first movement. There is a more severe second subject that acts as a foil to the wildness of the dance. A short slow introduction precedes the spectacular Scherzo vivace, which unleashes some virtuoso displays from the first violin. The Finale is an extended Andante, a remarkable piece of sustained lyrical invention. The composer Nikolai Myaskovsky was full of praise for this movement: First of all, the composition is completely free of effects, something quite surprising for Prokofiev. Secondly there is true profundity in the sweeping melodic line and intensity of the Finale. This movement strikes deep. From a mournfully lyrical beginning the movement builds up to an impassioned climax on a distinctly Slavic theme before collapsing shockingly against a wailing ostinato as the movement winds down tortuously to a desolate coda. His biographer Daniel Jaffé writes: Intentionally or not, this is Prokofiev’s most eloquent expression of despair at being disowned by his own homeland.

Francis Humphrys