16 Feb 2012

Prokofiev – Concerto No. 2 in G minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 63

Concerto No. 2 in G minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 63

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons; 2 horns, 2 trumpets; strings; percussion

Performance time: 26 minutes

Though composed shortly after the score for Lieutenant Kijé, Prokofiev’s second violin concerto was considered — at least at the time of its premiere — to represent a very different style, more international and more starkly modern. In actuality, the concerto is traditional in its construction and opens with an appealing melody based on Russian folk tunes. This charming theme dominates the second movement, a graceful andante. In the third movement, an allegro, many listeners hear echoes of Spain.

Still, its creation does reflect the peripatetic life that Prokofiev led in his forties. He composed in a glow of appreciation for the first performance of his Sonata for Two Violins by Robert Soetens and Samuel Dushkin; since Stravinsky had recently dedicated a concerto to Dushkin, Prokofiev did likewise for Soetens. The concerto won immediate acclaim at its premiere in Madrid in 1935, and a delegation of Spanish musicians was sent to thank and congratulate Prokofiev on its success. 

Looking back on the concerto’s creation, Prokofiev noted, “The number of places in which I wrote the Concerto shows the kind of nomadic concert-tour life I led then. The main theme of the [first] movement was written in Paris, the first theme of the [second] movement at Voronezh [Russia], the orchestration was finished in Baku [present-day Azerbaijan] and the premiere given in Madrid.”