Piano Concerto No. 4 (Prokofiev)

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Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 4 in B-flat major for the left hand, Op. 53, was commissioned by the one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein and completed in 1931.

Wittgenstein did not understand the work, but it is not the case (as has sometimes been claimed) that he refused to play it. He was simply not prepared to play it until such time as he had appreciated its inner logic. That time never came, but Wittgenstein and Prokofiev always remained on friendly terms.

It was the only one of Prokofiev's complete piano concertos that never saw a performance during his lifetime. It was premiered in Berlin on 5 September 1956 by Siegfried Rapp and the West Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Martin Rich. The United States premiere was in 1958, by Rudolf Serkin and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy.[1] The British premiere was in 1961, by Malcolm Binns.[2]

Prokofiev expressed some interest in making an arrangement for piano two-hands and orchestra, but never went through with this idea.[3]


The concerto has four movements, lasting around 25 minutes:

  1. Vivace (4–5 mins)
  2. Andante (9–13 mins)
  3. Moderato (8–9 mins)
  4. Vivace (1–2 mins)

The first and last movement serve as a brief prelude and postlude respectively. The middle two movements comprise the main bulk of the concerto. The andante is more reflective and expands with a romantic greatness. The sarcastic Moderato is in modified sonata-form. The concerto has an unusual ending, with the piano running up pianissimo to a very high B-flat7.


The work is scored for solo piano (left hand), 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 1 trumpet, 1 trombone, bass drum and strings.


Pianist Orchestra Conductor Record Company Year of Recording Format
Siegfried Rapp[4] LOH-Orchester Sondershausen Gerhart Wiesenhutter
Vladimir Ashkenazy London Symphony Orchestra André Previn Decca 1975 CD
Kun-Woo Paik Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Antoni Wit Naxos 1991 CD
Boris Berman Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Neeme Järvi Chandos 1989 CD
Michel Beroff Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra Kurt Masur EMI 1974 CD
Abdel Rahman El Bacha Théâtre de la Monnaie Orchestra Kazushi Ono Fuga Libera CD
Nikolai Demidenko London Philharmonic Orchestra Alexander Lazarev CD
Gabriel Tacchino Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg Louis de Froment Quadromania 1977 CD
Leon Fleisher Boston Symphony Orchestra Seiji Ozawa Sony Classical 1991 CD
Vladimir Krainev Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra Dmitri Kitajenko Atlantic/Teldec CD
Alexander Toradze Kirov Theatre Orchestra Valery Gergiev Philips CD
Viktoria Postnikova USSR Ministry of Culture State Symphony Orchestra Gennadi Rozhdestvensky CD
Yefim Bronfman Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Zubin Mehta Sony Classical 1993 CD
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet BBC Philharmonic Gianandrea Noseda Chandos 2012 CD
Alexei Volodin St. Petersbury Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra Valery Gergiev Mariinsky 2015 CD


External links[edit]

  • "The Prokofiev Page". Archived from the original on March 23, 2012.[citation needed]