Symphony No. 5 (Prokofiev)

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Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major (Op. 100) in Soviet Russia in one month in the summer of 1944.


Fourteen years had passed since Prokofiev's last symphony.

World War II was still raging during the symphony's gestation, and Prokofiev composed it in a safe haven run by the Soviet Union. He gave out in a statement at the time that he intended it as "a hymn to free and happy Man, to his mighty powers, his pure and noble spirit."[1] He added "I cannot say that I deliberately chose this theme. It was born in me and clamoured for expression. The music matured within me. It filled my soul."


The piece is in four movements, lasting 40–45 minutes:

  1. Andante (in B-flat major)
  2. Allegro marcato (in D minor)
  3. Adagio (in F major)
  4. Allegro giocoso (in B-flat major)

Movement I[edit]

The first movement is in a tightly argued sonata form: its exposition presents two themes - one calm and sustained, the other soaring with tremolo accompaniment from strings - which are then involved in an elaborate and climactic development section. The movement is wrapped up with an electrifying coda, punctuated by a roaring tam-tam and low piano tremolos.
1st theme - mm. 1 - 7

  \relative c' { \clef treble \time 3/4 \key bes \major \tempo "Andante" 4 = 48 f4(\p^"Flute/Bassoon" g a8. f16 | c'8. bes16 f'4 bes | d,8. ees16 f4.) g8( | f ees d c bes c | ees4 d4.) bes8( | c[ ees d] bes'4 g8) | g8.( a16 f2~ | f4) }

mm. 8 - 10

  \relative c' { \clef treble \time 3/4 \key bes \major \tempo 4 = 48 << { \times 2/3 {g'8(^"Clarinet"\p ees' d} c2) } \\ { s4 r8. <bes ges>16_"Horns" <bes ges>4-> } >> }

mm. 29 - 30

  \relative c { \clef bass \time 4/4 \key bes \major \tempo 4 = 48 f,\mp bes8( d) cis\< g'4( a8)\! | bes( a) e-- a16-- g-- f8.\> d16 bes4\! }

2nd theme - mm. 54 - 64

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 4/4 \key bes \major \tempo "Poco più mosso" c2.(\p^"Flute/Oboe"_"dolce" bes8 a | c4) e( d cis | c8. bes16 a4~ a8) g( f e | \key c \major dis2) e4( fis | gis--) gis-- gis-- fis-- | a8.( cis16 b2 a4) | cis-- cis-- cis--( b8 a | gis fis fisis gis dis' cis fis,4~ | fis8.) g16\mp gis2(_"cresc." a4) | a8.--\mf_"cresc." ais16-- b2-- b8.( c16 | c,2.\f) }

mm. 74 - 77

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 4/4 \key c \major \tempo "Tempo I" e'2~->(\ff e8. d16--) c8.( f16--) | c8. d16 c4~( c8. d16--) c8.( bes16--) | a8.->( bes16--) c8.->( des16--) d8.->( e16--) f8.->( g16--) | f8.->( g16) a4 f c }

Closing theme - mm. 83 - 86

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 4/4 \key c \major r4 b'8.(\f_"animato" gis16) a( f') b,-. b-. b-. b-. b-- des-- | gis,( b) f-. a-. c,2.->~ | c4 r16 b'( aes des) a( f') b,-. b-. b( des) aes-. b-. | f( a) c,-. c-. c2._>~ | c4 }

Movement II[edit]

The second movement is an insistent scherzo in Prokofiev's typical toccata mode, framing a central theme in triple time.
mm. 3 - 10

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 4/4 \key d \minor \tempo "Allegro marcato" 4 = 132 r8 bes(^"Clarinet"\mp a gis bes a d a | e' a,-- cis-- e-- a2->) | r8 a(\< aes g c4--) a--\! | f8.->(\f c16) c8-. c-. c-. c-. c-. c16^"Oboe/Viola"( d | b4-> bes16)[ r bes( c] a4->) aes-- | g8.->( c,16) c8-.\> c-. c-. c-. c-. c-.\! | \clef bass c(->\mf^"Cello"[ des)] bes(\>->[ c)] aes->([ bes)] g(-.[ aes->)\!] | f\mp-> }

mm. 56 - 58

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 4/4 \key d \minor \tempo 4 = 132 bes\p->~(^"Violin (con sord.)" bes16 c bes a) d4->~( d16 c bes a) | gis4->~( gis16 c bes a) d( c bes a) d( c bes a) | bes( ees,) g g bes2.-> }

mm. 112 - 115

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 4/4 \key d \major \tempo "Meno mosso" a'4->\f~(^"Oboe/Clarinet" a16 g fis e d4->~ d16 e f g | a8 d) gis,-- eis-- eis->~( \times 2/3 {eis16 fis g} fis4) | fis->~( fis16 e d cis c2~ | c4.)\> a8--\! d2->\mf }

mm. 120 - 127

  \relative c' { \clef treble \time 3/4 \key d \major \tempo "Più mosso (un poco più animato ch'el tempo I)" 4 = 132 a2.->\p^"Clarinet/Viola"(~ | a8 b a fis g gis | a gis a4) d,-- | e4.-- g4( fis8 | a2.) | c2-- \times 2/3 {c8( b bes} | a2.->) }

mm. 154 - 157

{  \new PianoStaff << \new Staff \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 3/4 \key d \major \tempo 4 = 132 a'8(\p^"Piano" d16 fis a8) a a a | a( gis,) gis g g fis | \key c \major fis(\p f16 des aes8 f) f f | f( aes') aes f, f f' | f4 }
   \new Staff \relative c' { \clef bass \key d \major \time 3/4 a,8( d16 fis a8) a a a | a( bes) bes b b c | \key c \major c( des16 aes f8 des8) des des | des( des') des des, des a' | f4 } >> }

Movement III[edit]

The third movement is a dreamy slow movement, full of nostalgia, which nevertheless builds up to a tortured climax, before receding back to dreaminess. mm. 4 - 8

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 3/4 \key f \major \tempo "Adagio" 4 = 60 f\p(_"espress." e) f8( e | d c d b c4~ | \time 4/4 c8] f([ a c] e a b, g' | \time 3/4 bes,4-- f'-- a,--~ | a8) }

mm. 55 - 62

  \relative c { \clef bass \time 3/4 \key c \major \tempo 4 = 60 c,4.->\f ais8 c b | e c'( b) g' e( e') | d c16 a e'8 a,4 b16( g) | b4 \clef treble b'4. b8 | ais8.-> fis16 g8.-> e16 fis8.-> b16 | ais8.-> fis16 g8.-> e16 fis8.-> bis16 | cis8.->\dim gis16 a8.-> fis16 g8.-> e16 | fis4\mf }

mm. 82 - 84

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 3/4 \key c \minor \tempo "a tempo" 4 = 60 \partial 8*2 g8.--\p fis16 | g4( c,) d\trill( | ees8.--) d16-- f4( ees) | g,8.( c16 f4) d-- | ees-- }

"tortured climax" mm. 125 - 131

{  \new PianoStaff <<
    \new Staff \relative c' { \clef treble \time 3/4 \key fis \minor \tempo 4 = 60 <cis' fis, b,>8.-> <fis fis,>16 <eis a,>8.-> <cis a>16 <d bes>8.-> <b cis, b>16 | <cis fis, b,>8.-> <fis fis,>16 <eis a,>8.-> <cis a>16 <d bes>8.-> <b cis, b>16 | <cis fis, b,>8.-> <fis fis,>16 <eis a,>8.-> <cis a>16 <d bes>8.-> <b fis b,>16 | \time 9/8 \key a \minor c'8.->(\ff[ bes16)] aes64([ g f ees d c b aes)] g4-> fis8-> f4.-> | c''8.->(\ff[ bes16)] aes64([ g f ees d c b aes)] g4-> fis8-> f4.-> }
    \new Staff \relative c { \clef bass \time 3/4 \key fis \minor <fis, b,>8. <b g>16 <b g>8. <d' bes f>16 <d bes f>8. <fis,, b,>16 | <fis b,>8. <b g>16 <b g>8. <d' bes f>16 <d bes f>8. <fis,, b,>16 | <fis b,>8. <b g>16 <b g>8. <d' bes f>16 <d bes f>8. <d, d,>16 | \time 9/8 \key a \minor << { aes'8 c d g, b <d fis,> f, bes d | aes8 c cis d b fis eis b' cis } \\ { aes,4. b cis | aes4. b cis } >> } >> }

Movment IV[edit]

The finale starts with a cello choir playing a slow introduction containing elements from the first theme of the first movement, which then launches into the movement proper, a rondo. The playful ("giocoso") main theme is contrasted with two calmer episodes, one played by the flute, the other a chorale on strings. At the end, just as the movement is striving to end in a victorious tone, the music unexpectedly degenerates into a manic frenzy (rehearsal mark 111), which is then interrupted by a string quartet playing staccato "wrong notes" (rehearsal mark 113) with rude interjections from low trumpets, making the ultimate B flat major chord sound all the more ironic.
mm. 3 - 6

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 2/2 \key bes \major \tempo "Allegro giocoso" 2 = 72 \partial 4*1 f'(\p a, bes2~ bes8) cis( | d4 e, f bes) | bes,4.( ees8 b2 | c1) }

Theme from first movement - mm. 15 - 22

{  \new PianoStaff <<
    \new Staff \relative c' { \clef treble \time 3/2 \key bes \major \tempo "Poco più tranquillo" 2 = 72 c2(\mf d) e4.( c8)-- << { \stemUp g'4.(\< f8--) c'2\! f\f | a,4.( bes8) c2.( d4--) | c\dim bes( a) g( f) g | bes2 a2.\p } \\ { \stemDown b,4.( c8--) e4.( f8) gis2 | f2.. e8( f2) | e4 d( cis) d( c) d | des2 c2. } >> f4 | g(\< bes) a\! f'2\mf\> d,4\! | d4.(\mp e8 c1\> | c1.\!\fermata\p } 
    \new Staff \relative c { \clef bass \time 3/2 \key bes \major << { <e c>2 <f b,> fis4.( e8--) | <d gis,>4.( <dis a>8) <gis b,>4.( <a c,>8) <bes d,>4.( <b ees,>8) | c2.. gis8( a2) | aes4 ges( e) d( c) d | <ees ges,>4.( <e g,>8) <f a,>2. <a c,>4 | <b des,>( <des ges,>) <c e,> aes'2 f,4 | <f c,>4.( <g g,>8 <e c>2( <f d>) | g1.\fermata } \\ { c,,1 <bes' c,>2 | c,1. | d'4.( des8) c1~ | c2 cis4 g( aes) g | s1 c,2->~ | c1 b2 | c1 s2 | d'2( e1)\fermata } >> } 
>> }

mm. 29 - 36

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 2/2 \key bes \major \tempo "Tempo I" 2 = 72 \partial 8*1 f8\p(^"Clarinet" bes,4.-- c8-- d4.-- a'8-- | bes2.--) a16( g f g | a4.) bes16( c bes4.) d,8 | d2..-> e16( fis | g4.-> fis16 e d cis b a g8)[ r16 ges-.] | ges8-> aes'2.-- ges,8( | f4.-- ees8-- f'4.--) c16( ees | d8) bes'2.-- }

mm. 37 - 38

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 2/2 \key bes \major \tempo 2 = 72 \partial 8*1 d'16( f) | e,->[ e-. e-. e-.] e-.[ e-. f-. e-.] ees-.[ d-. des-. c-.] ces-.[ bes-. a-. cis-.] | aes,2.. }

mm. 54 - 55

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 2/2 \key c \major \tempo 2 = 72 \partial 4*1 aes16( bes b g | c8) g'16 g g8-. c-. b-. fis-. fis-. g-. | dis-. dis-. dis-. e-. c4-> }

mm. 83 - 90

  \relative c'' { \clef treble \time 2/2 \key f \major \tempo 2 = 72 \partial 2*1 f'4.(^"Flute"\p e8 | f4 a,2.) | f'4( c,2 a'4) | a2.( c4 | a8 g e g a2) | a4(^"Clarinet" e2) e8.( a16 | e4 c2) c8.( f16 | c8 d, g bes cis4. d8 | \times 2/3 {g a g} g2) }

mm. 164 - 172

  \relative c { \clef bass \time 2/2 \key des \major \tempo 2 = 72 r4 f(\pp ees) aes, | des( ees) f2~ | f4 ges aes2 | f' ees4( c) | des f8-- des-- c4( aes) | bes2 f4( ges) | aes2 ees4( f) | ges bes8 ges f4( ges) | aes bes c2 }


The work is scored for the following:







The symphony was premiered on January 13, 1945 in the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory by the USSR State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Prokofiev himself. The premiere was very well received, and the symphony has remained one of the composer's most popular works. Then, in November of that year, Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra introduced the score to America and recorded it in Boston's Symphony Hall on February 6 and 7, 1946, for RCA Victor, using an optical sound film process introduced by RCA in 1941; it was initially issued on 78-rpm discs and later on LP and CD.


  1. ^ Schwarz, Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia, p.196, cited in Preston Stedman, The Symphony, p.290

Notable recordings[edit]

Orchestra Conductor Record Company Year of Recording Format
Boston Symphony Orchestra Sergei Koussevitzky RCA, Dutton 1946 LP/CD
Philadelphia Orchestra Eugene Ormandy Columbia 1958 LP
Philharmonia Orchestra Thomas Schippers Angel, Medici Masters 1957 LP/CD
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire Jean Martinon RCA, Vox 1959 LP/CD
Cleveland Orchestra George Szell Sony 1959 LP/CD
Boston Symphony Orchestra Erich Leinsdorf RCA 1963 LP/CD
New York Philharmonic Leonard Bernstein Sony 1966 LP/CD
Berlin Philharmonic Herbert von Karajan Deutsche Grammophon 1968 LP/CD
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra Evgeny Mravinsky Russian Disc, Leningrad Masters 1968 CD
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra Gennadi Rozhdestvensky BBC 1971 CD
Concerts Colonne Orchestra Jascha Horenstein Vox 1972 CD/LP
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra Gennadi Rozhdestvensky Melodiya 1975 LP
Philadelphia Orchestra Eugene Ormandy RCA 1975 CD (Japan only)
London Symphony Orchestra Walter Weller Decca 1976 CD
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Zdeněk Košler Supraphon 1979 CD
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Vladimir Ashkenazy Decca 1985 CD
Scottish National Orchestra Neeme Järvi Chandos 1985 CD
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra Mariss Jansons Chandos 1987 CD
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra Dmitri Kitajenko RCA 1987 CD
Orchestre National de France Mstislav Rostropovich Erato 1988 CD
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra Stephen Gunzenhauser Naxos 1989 CD
Berlin Philharmonic Seiji Ozawa Deutsche Grammophon 1990 CD
Philadelphia Orchestra Riccardo Muti Philips 1990 CD
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Yuri Temirkanov RCA 1991 CD
Chicago Symphony Orchestra James Levine Deutsche Grammophon 1992 CD
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Simon Rattle EMI 1992 CD
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine Theodore Kuchar Naxos 1995 CD
London Symphony Orchestra Valery Gergiev Philips 2004 CD