Why Prokofiev concertos don’t work back to back

Why Prokofiev concertos don’t work back to back


norman lebrecht

August 24, 2015

There’s a new release of the second Prokofiev violin concerto, and it’s a stunner. Much the better for not being coupled with the first concerto.

Why is that? Read my Album of the Week review on sinfinimusic.com right here.

prokofiev car

At the Proms this summer, all five piano concertos were heard in a single Valery Gergiev vanity concert. We were left none the wiser.



  • Ppellay says:

    “We were left none the wiser”? What’s this “we” stuff? Speak for yourself!

  • John Borstlap says:

    Wonderfully written review.

  • Jonathan M. Dunsby says:

    The Daily Telegraph reported

    ==No wonder we hear the 3rd Concerto so often; compared to the others it’s a copper-bottomed masterpiece,…..From 7pm until 10.15pm we were trapped in the same musical magic toy-box of eccentric little marches, rushing virtuosity, and cartoon modernism. By the end, I was dying to be let out. “

  • MBH says:

    After the glowing review I would have expected 5 stars. Why the missing one?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      5 is perfect.

      • Harold Lewis says:

        Such churlish and supercilious comments! There are good reasons why Prokofiev 3 has become the most popular piano concerto written in the 20th century. As for the violin works, name one other 20th century composer to have written two violin concertos that have both become solidly established in the concert repertoire.

  • Jonathan M. Dunsby says:

    The 4th and 5th concertos were both receiving Proms premieres – so it was strange they should be presented in this way. Actually, I remember Gergiev once programmed the 1st and 2nd Prokofiev violin concertos plus the 3rd piano concerto in one concert (it’s on YT somewhere). He does like this grand programming.

    Roll on Sir Simon taking over the LSO. He will surely put a lot of thought into building concert programmes !

  • harold braun says:

    The Gergiev Prokofiev concerto was a stunning journey through different stylistic periods of Prokofiev,stunningly performed.I ,and the capacity audience gave it a rapturous ovation.I for one,and i’d guess most of the prommers go to concerts more for excitement,sensual enjoyment and the sheer pleasure of great performances….But who are we in comparison to pompous,pretentious music journalists

    • Herbert Pauls says:

      I certainly wish I could have been there. Prokofiev has enough variety and lyricism in his language to carry it off. The works have a lot of contrast and are all spectacular in their different ways. I am not at all surprised that the concert brought the house down.

      More generally speaking, long concerts consisting of only piano concertos used to be more common than they are today. Themed events like this show that the concept still has life in it.

  • Michael J. Stewart says:

    Why on earth would anyone find a fascinating traversal of Prokofiev’s piano concerti back to back in one concert something to complain about unless they had some sort axe to grind? I checked the newspapers the following day and as far as I’m aware the concert didn’t initiate any dreadful calamities in the world. At least 5,000 plus thought it worth paying to see. Can’t be bad, eh? When I was 17 years old I listened to all of Mahler’s symphonies back to back in one day. It was an enriching experience.