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     Sergei Prokofiev entered the St. Petersburg conservatory at the age of 13.  At that time one of the greatest composers of the 20th century was a cocky teenager who enjoyed startling his teachers - Rimsky-Korsakov, Lyadov and Tcherepnin.  Myaskovsky encouraged his interest in Strauss, Debussy, Scriabin and Stravinsky.
     Being also a pianist and conductor, Prokofiev played the piano part at the premiere of his
diploma work - The First Piano Concerto.  The first public performance took place in 1912 under Konstantin Sarayev.  Prokofiev's skills as a pianist were acknowledged by the Anton Rubinstein Prize in 1914.  The concerto is written in the one-part form of sonata allegro with an introduction and conclusion.  Though Prokofiev's music always remained tonal, his works
including the First Piano Concerto were very fresh, modern and often difficult to understand at that time.
     Prokofiev's music have been categorized as barbaric, eclectic, ironic, romantic,  post-romantic and antiromantic, neoclassical, sarcastic, cosmopolitan, cold, industrial, lyrical, full of adrenaline, epic, schizophrenic... It looks like he cannot perfectly match any box our
musicologists have been attempting to put him into.  In fact his music simply reflects the controversial time in which he lived, its rapid dramatical changes.
     Four other concertos followed the first one during the next 20 years.  Prokofiev  composed more piano concertos than any other Russian composer.  All piano parts were written to be performed by the author, except the Fourth Piano Concerto, which was commissioned by the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein.  He requested the piano part to be composed for the left hand only.
     Wittgenstein wrote to Prokofiev after receiving the score: "Thank you for the concerto, but I do not understand a single note and I shall not play it".  After receiving another concerto, this time from Ravel, Wittgenstein wrote: "I asked for a concerto, not a sonata".  He also rejected the concerto composed for him by Richard Strauss.  For this reason Prokofiev's Fourth was premiered only after his death by German pianist Siegfried Rapp, who lost his right hand during World War Two.  Prokofiev reduced the orchestra to the double staff to balance the piano solo with the orchestral tutti.
     Prokofiev's evolution made his music more lyrical and tragic.  Besides the vigour inherited
from his youth, a more profound and balanced approach is displayed in his Fifth Piano Concerto.
     A kaleidoscope of images and their amazing coherence, a developed luxurious piano texture and brilliant orchestration feature in all piano concertos by Prokofiev.
     It is interesting, that he repeated the standard route of many Russian artists - after trying the USA most of them move to Paris. The outcome of American policy in regard to Prokofiev and other Soviet composers - Prokofiev never was paid mechanical royalties by American publishers and record labels during his lifetime, being discriminated against as a Soviet citizen.
     All together he spent 17 years abroad and after his return to the USSR in 1934, at the time of Stalin's terror, he was not allowed to leave the country again.  His wife was taken to a labor camp and Prokofiev was left to enjoy communism alone.  Stravinsky and Rachmaninov knew of Stalin's hospitality and stayed abroad, a distance from the communist regime.
    The death of the great Russian composer remained unnoticed in his motherland.  He and Stalin died on the same day - March 5, 1953, and most people were overwhelmed by the death of "Uncle Joe".  A few students and close friends buried Sergei Prokofiev.

     Gennady Rozhdestvensky
     Son of conductor Nikolai Anossov and singer Natalya Rozhdestvenskaya, whose name he adopted, Rozhdestvensky studied piano with Lev Oborin and orchestral conducting with his father at the Moscow Conservatory. He made his debut at the Bolshoi Theater at the age of twenty with a performance of "The Nutcracker" by Tchaikovsky.  He spent ten years at the Bolshoi as assistant to Yuri Fayev and conducted several ballets. In 1961 he was appointed as artistic director of the USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra, where he worked until 1974. From 1964-70 he was simultaneously principal conductor at the Bolshoi Theater. In 1972, he became a musical director of the Moscow Chamber Opera. From 1974-77 he was artistic director of the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1978-81 - principal conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and from 1981-83 - principal conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. While in Vienna, he also taught orchestral conducting at the Conservatory. In 1982 he was appointed as director of the newly-founded Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow Ministry of Education and Arts. From 1987 he taught orchestral conducting at the Academia Musicale Chigiana in Sienna. In 1991 he returned to work with the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and in 1994 he became chairman of the artistic committee of the Moscow Bolshoi Theater.
     Rozhdestvensky is considered today as one of the leading interpreters of Russian music.
In respect of his musical contribution to Japan, Maestro Rozhdestvensky was decorated
the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon in autumn 2001.  He is married
to the pianist Victoria Postnikova.
     Victoria Postnikova graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1967 in the class
of Professor Fliere.  She is a laureate of several international competitions: Chopin in Warsaw, in Leeds (Great Britain), Vian da Mott in Lisbon and Tchaikovsky in Moscow.  The interpretation of five piano concertos by Prokofiev is one of her the most remarkable accomplishments.

2003 Evgeni Kostitsyn


Sergei Prokofiev
(1891 - 1953)
Five Concertos for Piano and Orchestra

Disc I:

   1. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in D flat major, Op. 10 - 16:26

       Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4 (for left hand) in B flat major, Op. 53
   2. I. Vivace - 4:31
   3. II. Andante - 11:52
   4. III. Moderato - 7:41
   5. IV. Vivace - 1:37

       Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 5 in G major, Op. 55
   6. I. Allegro con brio - 5:40
   7. II. Moderato ben accentuato - 4:35
   8. III. Toccata. Allegro con fuoco - 1:59
   9. IV. Larghetto - 7:33
   10. V. Vivo - 5:59

Disc II:

       Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16
   1. I. Andantino Allegretto - 12:39
   2. II. Scherzo. Vivace - 2:42
   3. III. Intermezzo. Allegro moderato - 7:35
   4. IV. Finale. Allegro temestoso - 11:59

       Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3 in C major, Op. 26
   5. I. Andante. Allegro - 9:49
   6. II. Theme with Variations. Andantino - 9:45
   7. III. Allegro ma non troppo - 10:56

Total time - 133:46

Victoria Postnikova, piano
USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Conductor - Gennady Rozhdestvensky

cover painting - "Red Cavalry" by Kazimir Malevich

Recording engineers Shakhnazarian and Pazukhin
concertos recorded: #2 in 1983; #1,3 and 5 in 1985; #4 in 1987

Design by Evgeni Kostitsyn