excerpt from 'Sergey Prokofiev diaries: 1 March 1909' pp. 82-84 (844 words)

excerpt from 'Sergey Prokofiev diaries: 1 March 1909' pp. 82-84 (844 words)

part of

Sergey Prokofiev diaries: 1 March 1909

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urn:iso:std:iso:639:ed-3:eng

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82-84

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On Monday 23rd at quarter to ten I was in the Court Orchestra's rather uncomfortable hall. Also present were seven of my closest relations, plus Myaskovsky and Zakharov. I did not invite anyone else, not being sure how appropriate it would be to inundate a private rehearsal with members of the public. Warhlich appeared at ten o'clock, and a quarter of an hour later, Glazunov. I had not known in advance that he would be coming, and I found his presence very disconcerting. It is true that after my Symphony the orchestra was due to rehearse his 'Elegy', so he would have had to be there for that, but surely he could just have put in an appearance for his own piece. In any event Glazunov appeared and the orchestra began my Symphony. My family were sitting on the right, Myaskovsky and Glazunov on the left near the front while Glazunov say diagonally across near them, even closer to the front. I positioned myself behind him. Glazunov rose from his seat to say something to Warhlich, but then turned and came to sit beside me. Warhlich raised his baton and announced: 'Symphony.' I was not the least bit anxious. They began. Everything appeared to be in place, except that it sounded rather loud. The brass chord in the ninth bar blared somewhat, but otherwise everything was fine. The main theme and its extension sounded right. Zakharov shifted about in his seat murmuring approval of the sequence of dominant seventh chords. Eventually we arrived at the second subject, and this seemed all right too, not too loud as some people had warned me, except that the trombones were very strident. Glazunov got up and asked them to play forte not fortissimo, and legato not staccato. I sidled up to Warhlich and asked him for a shade slower tempo. Everything went smoothly after that, and even the trombones quietened down. The transition to the final theme and the theme itself did not sound as effective as I had hoped, somehow the seams showed even though this is one of the most scrupulously designed passages in the score. I blamed the orchestra and the awful acoustic of the hall. Start of the development. The trombones underscoring the opening subject - an addition I made only yesterday - sounded wonderful. We reached the climax of the development. Almost nothing could be heard above the brass: all my combinations of textures simply disintegrated. I shall have to broaden out the themes and make the brass play more quietly. There followed, as Andryusha put it, a bit of a hole: the flute could not be heard at all and the clarinet only feebly. Of course this is partly due to the hall, but they will have to be doubled. The pedal point also vanished: I don't know what was going on at that point. And finally, the last chord obviously needs lengthening. Thereafter everything was fine; the second subject sounded splendid in the recapitulation. The first movement came to an end. The opening of the second movement sounded better and softer than I had expected. All went well until the bass-clarinet theme at the very end of the movement, which could not be heard no matter what the player did. I asked Glazunov if he thought this was due to the orchestration of the acoustic of the hall? Glazunov muttered something into his beard but then added, 'All the same, it could do with strengthening, it needs something ...' 'Bassoon, perhaps?' 'Yes.' Incidentally, I was amused to see how Glazunov disliked the unresolved ninth at the very beginning before the entry of the strings. He quickly turned to me: 'Is that right?' 'Yes,' I replied. But I can see that until one gets used to it, this chord can seem strange. The opening theme of the Finale sounded coarse; it should be more legato. The imitation in the bass clarinet could not be heard - with all the racket going on this was true generally of this instrument. Warhlich and the orchestra just could not make this passage work although they stopped and tried again a couple of times. The second subject was all right. The development sounded coarse, mainly because of the performance, but the parallel fifths were very good. Later on, however, the fortissimo at the very end of the development section sounded watery, which is a great pity. Here the orchestration is definitely the culprit. In the coda, the four horns swallowed their theme, and the transition to G major was unconvincing, it would be better simply to repeat it. Further on all was well, but the return of the opening theme, which is designed to be an impressive moment, passed without making much effect; the trombones blasted out staccato, and generally the moment went for very little although by all appearances it ought to have sounded splendid. The last page sounded a bit rough. In general the movement I liked most was the second, which was to my ears near immaculate.

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excerpt from 'Sergey Prokofiev diaries: 1 March 1909' pp. 82-84 (844 words)

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