Karl Miller, in response to me:
>>Now I'm going to have to go re-hear Prokofiev's Symphony No. 3.
>Especially if you can find the Rozhdestvensky or Bruck recordings.
>If you are looking for anguish...that final movement, for me, is a
>powerhouse. I will be interested to know your take on the piece.
This particular symphony is not one I know well, and I have never
heard any of the Fiery Angel opera from which Prokofiev took his thematic
material. I have only Neeme Jarvi's recording of the symphony, with the
Scottish National Orchestra on Chandos, so I can make no comparisons,
but the performance seems good to me and the opening especially is
harrowing. Certainly a strong work.
>Reflecting on your comments and others, I wonder if one could say that
>Shostakovich's writing is more about emotion and Prokofiev's writing is
>more often about music?
You've stuck your philosophical neck out here, Karl, with those "abouts,"
but I won't try to lop it off. I do find Shostakovich's music highly
emotional. And the emotions he expressed were not exactly the upbeat
ones the authorities were looking for, in most of his career, which
accounts for some of the suppression he experienced. Several years ago
I read a memoir by the first violinist of the Borodin Quartet, written,
as I recall, during or after the "thaw" following Stalin's death, when
international cultural exchanges began. Official permission was still
required just to perform anything, and some official sat in during
rehearsals of a new Shostakovich quartet, the grimness of which was
matched by the expression on the official's face. Noting the latter,
the members of the quartet asked if they could play it again. This time
they made the performance more upbeat in manner, which changed the mood
and relaxed the frowns. They still did not get to play the piece. (I
don't have the book and the specifics elude me.)
I take you to be saying that Prokofiev's music has much less of the
"extramusical" that one can associate with it, on the whole, and I would
tend to agree. Prokofiev's musical voice is highly individual and he
delighted in musical effects for music's sake. I think that is what you
mean also. To be sure he could be plenty expressive when he wanted to
be, as in the violin concertos, for instance.