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Piano Concerto No.1 in D Flat Major Op.10

Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D flat, Op. 10

Prokofiev was 21 when he gave the first performance of his First Piano concerto in Moscow in July 1912. Shorter than any of his other four piano concertos - it flashes past in about 15 exuberant minutes - No. 1 is by no means less striking in its sheer dynamic impact. Indeed, it is easy to see why the composer regarded this in later life as his first 'more or less mature' work, for it established at a strike several of the most characteristic features of his personal style.

Ennumerating these fingerprints in his autobiography, Prokofiev speaks of the classical line, which he traces back to the Beethoven sonatas he heard his mother play when he was a child; the modern trend; the toccata or motoric line, traceable back to the strong impression Schumann's Toccata made on him at first hearing; the lyrical line, for which he was at first given no credit, but which he gradually came to regard as more and more important in his work; and the grotesque line, which he regards not as a genuine line but as simply a deviation from the other lines - he prefers to describe his music as 'scherzo-ish', 'or else by three words describing the various degrees of the scherzo: whimsicality, laughter, mockery.'

All of these traits are to be found compressed within the First Piano Concerto's concise structure, which Prokefiev described as 'a sonata Allegro with the introduction repeated after the exposition and again at the end, with a short Andante before the development, the latter taking the form of a scherzo, and a cadenza introducing the recapitulation.

Classicism may seem the least evident element, but can perhaps be identified in a tendency to build form our of motifs rather than extended themes. Modernity, especially of harmonic idiom and orchestral treatment, pervades the entire work. The motoric, toccata, or 'scherzo-ish' side of the concerto is what hakes the most immediate impression on the listener's mind, from the irresistible dash of the opening section to the drollery and drive of the final Allegro, whose tempo is indeed modified by the marking scherzando. And between these two breathless excursions, the central Andante assai blossoms with featherlight piano and woodwind scales ad embellishments of welcome lyricism.


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