Prokofiev – Violin Concerto No. 2 in G-minor, Op. 63

by Max Derrickson

Sergei Prokofiev     (b Sontskova, Ukraine, April 27, 1891; Moscow,Russia, March 5, 1953)

Violin Concerto No. 2 in G-minor, Op. 63
1. Allegro moderato
2. Andante assai
3. Allegro ben marcato

Prokofiev’s marvelous, somewhat quixotic, Violin Concerto No. 2 bears the tell-tale signs of a composer in transition, both ideologically and physically.  It was commissioned for the Belgian violin virtuoso Robert Soetens by a group of the violinist’s admirers and the work was completed and premiered in 1935.  At the time, Prokofiev had been gradually repatriating himself back toMoscow, after more than two decades of building his career in the West as a composer, conductor and pianist, and he was shedding some of the ferocious modernism of his former years and actively embracing the new Soviet musical aesthetic of simplicity and lyricism.  The Concerto was composed around the world while Prokofiev wrapped up his touring life.  As he recalled in his autobiography, the first theme of the first movement was written inParis, the main theme of the second inVoronezh, the orchestration was completed inBaku, and then the premiere took place inMadrid.  And the music itself is equally peripatetic, harboring multiple personalities: lyricism, anxiety, sarcasm, naiveté, wildness, all alongside the feeling that, given just the right nudge, we might just witness all hell breaking loose.

The Concerto is also incredibly important in Prokofiev’s evolution as a composer.  Immediately after this piece was completed he set to work on two of his greatest achievements – the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and Symphony No. 5, two of the 20th Century’s masterpieces.  The lyricism found in the ballet, those exotic, charming melodies, appears to have had the Violin Concerto as their drawing board.  Certainly the beautiful theme in the Concerto’s second movement Andante foretells
[. . .]

Of all of the curious, delightful and exciting elements in this Concerto, it must be the soloist that delights the most.   From its opening, dark and longing theme, through the soaring and pure melody of the second movement,
[. . .]