Hilary Hahn plays Prokofiev
Even though Sergei Prokofiev’s first symphony and first violin concerto were both created during the same period, they show completely different sides of the then young composer. The symphony he himself called The Classic Symphony, as its style is a reference back towards classicism and the father of symphony, Joseph Haydn. Violin Concerto No. 1, on the other hand, demonstrates the romantic, lyrical Prokofiev. Several decades later, Symphony No. 5 was born in the midst of WWII, a backdrop that also coloured the dramatic music.
Listen to Hilary Hahn talking about playing the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Prokofiev:
Violinist Hilary Hahn was twelve years old when she made her grand orchestral debut with the symphony orchestra of her native Baltimore. At seventeen, she debuted in Carnegie Hall in New York. Hahn’s relationship with Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev is heartfelt and sincere. Her attitude to Violin Concerto No. 1, a piece with several surprising changes in tempo and mood, is somewhat sporty: ”I really love that piece. As a musician, I sometimes feel a little like a biathlete. Those that go, go, go and then suddenly, they have to lie still and control their breathing.”
Israeli conductor and pianist Lahav Shani began playing the piano at the age of six. In his adolescence, he studied the double bass and conducting in addition to his piano studies. ”Music has always been one of my native languages. As a child, I wanted to listen to The Magic Flute every day. I didn’t understand a single word of it, but by the time I was four I could sing along with the whole opera”, he has said. At the age of 24, he won the prestigious Gustav Mahler competition for young conductors and his career took off. Shani is the chief conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic for the 2018–19 season and in 2020, he will take over as the Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Sergei Prokofiev was a six-year-old prodigy on the piano, who wrote his first opera at the age of nine. He was born in the Ukraine and received his initial musical schooling by his mother, who was an amateur pianist. In 1917, he lived in Saint Petersburg, at the time called Petrograd. It was the year of the two Russian revolutions that toppled the czar, and the 25-year-old conductor was more productive than ever. As was his wont, he was working on several pieces at the same time and within only a few months, he wrote Symphony No. 1, as he himself calls the classic symphony with a wink to Haydn, Violin Concerto No. 1 and the piano pieces Visions fugitives. He also began a choral work and his third piano concerto, as well as planning the opera The Love for Three Oranges – all in wildly disparate styles. The spiritual symphony has little in common with the lyrical violin concerto.
Symphony No. 5 came about much later, in 1944, in the midst of war when Prokofiev himself was safely tucked away in an artists’ residence in Ivanovo, east of Moscow. He wanted to use the heroic music and martial crescendos of the symphony to celebrate ”the generosity, strength and spiritual purity of the free and happy individual” and he himself directed the première at the musical conservatory in Moscow, in January 1945. When he stood at the podium, baton aloft, the sounds of cannons suddenly rolled in over the city and Prokofiev waited with the upbeat until the salvoes has ended. The salute signalled the the Red Army’s entry into Nazi Germany, something that marked the beginning of the reconquest of the Soviet Union.
Text: Anna Hedelius
The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of Europe’s most versatile orchestras, with a worldwide reputation and a repertoire that combines the major classical works as well as exciting new music. In collaboration with the most important conductors, soloists and composers, there is a constant striving to break new ground. The orchestra’s extensive and high-quality music-making has been rewarded with numerous prizes and accolades and they regularly perform at international festivals and concert halls. “The orchestra has a unique combination of humility, sensibility and musical imagination”, says Daniel Harding, chief conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. “I have never had a concert with the orchestra where they haven’t played as though their lives depended on it!” he continues. The first radio orchestra was formed in 1925, the same year that the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts and since then the orchestra’s concerts have always been broadcast by the Swedish Radio. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra received its current name in 1967 and over the years has had such distinguished chief conductors as Sergiu Celibidache, Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen.