Symphony No. 7 (Prokofiev)

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Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 7 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, was completed in 1952, the year before his death. It is his last symphony.

Background[edit]

This symphony represents a turning away from the more dissonant aspects of Prokofiev's music, toward a simpler style, and was premiered as part of a radio program for children. Because of this it has been called the "Children's symphony".[citation needed] Shostakovich expressed admiration for the work, and it may have influenced his 15th symphony.[citation needed]

Most of the symphony is emotionally restrained, nostalgic and melancholy in mood, including the ending of the Vivace final movement. However, Prokofiev was later convinced to add an energetic and optimistic coda, so as to win the Stalin Prize of 100,000 rubles (because of official disapproval, Prokofiev was living in poverty at this time). Before he died, Prokofiev indicated that the original quiet ending was to be preferred.[1]

The premiere was well-received, and in 1957, four years after Prokofiev's death, the symphony was awarded the Lenin Prize.

Movements[edit]

The symphony is in four movements, lasting 30–35 minutes:

  1. Moderato
  2. Allegretto
  3. Andante espressivo
  4. Vivace

The first movement, in sonata form, opens with a melancholic first theme on violins, which contrasts with the warm and lyrical second theme on cellos. After a brief development section, the recapitulation of the two themes follows, and the movement ends in a reflective mood with the clock-ticking sounds on glockenspiel and xylophone.

The second movement is an autumnal waltz, reminiscent of Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella, while the third movement is an expressive and singing slow movement.

The finale, in C-sharp major, contains an innocent cheerfulness. There is a slowing of pace and the return of the warm cello theme from the first movement, and the symphony ends with the same tinkling sounds from the tuned percussion as the first movement.

Instrumentation[edit]

The work scores for the following:

Woodwinds

Brass

Percussion

Keyboard

Strings

Recordings[edit]

Samuil Samosud conducted the premiere performance (Trade Union Hall of Columns, Moscow, All-Union Radio Orchestra, 11 October 1952); he recorded it with the same orchestra, using the original slow ending, in 1953 (reissued in 1957 as "Moscow Radio-TV Orchestra".) The first recording with the new assertive ending was by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, from sessions on 26 April 1953. Nikolai Malko and the Philharmonia Orchestra were the first to record the music in stereo, in 1955. Recordings using the original slow ending are marked by an asterisk.

Orchestra Conductor Record Company Year of Recording Format
Cleveland Orchestra Vladimir Ashkenazy* Decca 1995 CD
London Symphony Orchestra Valery Gergiev* Philips 2004 CD
Scottish National Orchestra Neeme Järvi Chandos 1986 CD
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Zdeněk Košler Supraphon 1977 CD
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine Theodore Kuchar Naxos CD
Philharmonia Orchestra[2] Nikolai Malko EMI 1955 CD
National Orchestra of the O.R.T.F. Jean Martinon Vox CD
Philadelphia Orchestra Eugene Ormandy Columbia 1953 (ML 4683) LP
Berlin Philharmonic Seiji Ozawa* Deutsche Grammophon 1989 CD
Orchestre National de France Mstislav Rostropovich* Erato 1988 CD
USSR Ministry of Culture State Symphony Orchestra Gennady Rozhdestvensky CD/LP
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra Gennady Rozhdestvensky* LP
All-Union Radio Orchestra, USSR Samuil Samosud* Melodiya 1953 (issued 1957 as D 01476) LP
London Symphony Orchestra Walter Weller Decca 1974 CD

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. André Previn. Philips 1989

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "The symphony was originally to have wound down on this desolate theme, but Prokofiev was convinced—by Samosud, according to Rostropovich—to write a much more upbeat end in order to win a first rather than a third class Stalin Prize. Prokofiev told Rostropovich he did so in order to gain the much needed 100,000 rubles: 'But Slava, you will live much longer than I, and you must take care that this new ending never exists after me.' " Daniel Jaffé, Sergey Prokofiev (London; New York: Phaidon Press, 1998): p. 211.
  2. ^ This recording was made in 1955 directly after the UK premiere, with Malko conducting. It was EMI's first commercial stereophonic recording.

Bibliography[edit]