Begun as a Concertino in 1915 and unperformed until 1923, the First Violin Concerto was orchestrated during a river journey which Prokofiev took to Siberia during the turbulent spring of 1917. ’The [river] Kama is wild virinally pure and incredibly beautiful here’, wrote Prokofiev at the time, and the same could be said of the long melody played by the soloist in the first few bars. Elsewhere, the concerto bears the stamp of Prokofiev’s barbed enfant terrible characteristics. The scherzo runs wild with every conceiveable effect for the soloist - pizzicato, harmonics, spiccato and sul ponticello - as well as imaginative orchestal strokes such as rushing clarinet figurations, pulsing horns and baleful tuba.
The lack of a piano was very significant factor in the composition of Prokofiev’s ’Classical’ Symphony. He wrote ’until this time I had always composed at the piano, but I noticed that thematic material composed without the piano was often better.’ Prokofiev was at pains to stress that the work was an exercise not to be repeated: I didn’t approve of taking over another composer’s style as one’s own. I ... had written a Classical Symphony, but only in passing.’ The orchestral palette throughout is clean and clear - mostly spry dialogues between strings and wind, though the brass does bring us forcefully into the twentieth century in the first movement development.
Prokofiev’s original 20 Visions fugitives for solo piano are short, elliptical impressions drawn from lines by the poet Konstantin Balmont, whose words Prokofiev had already set to music in several song. The withdrawn quality is beautifully preserved in Rudolph Barshai’s arrangement of fifteen of the twenty pieces, made in 1962 for his own Moscow Chamber Orchestra.