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Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Levit

The focus “Prokofiev | Levit” is a dream come true for Igor Levit. On three evenings in March, the German pianist will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s five piano concertos with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Iván Fischer. Other orchestral works by Prokofiev complete the picture of this musical innovator at the beginning of the 20th century.

© Felix Broede

The musical earth was still shaking after the Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s “Spring Offering” a few months earlier, when the next tectonic shake-up of revolutionising Russian music took place in the summer of 1913 – this time in Pavlovsk. “Such music makes you crazy”, people shouted as they fled the concert hall before the mighty and majestic Second Piano Concerto by the young pianist Sergei Prokofiev. The scandal did the 20-year-old musician no harm; it turned him into a cult figure of St. Petersburg’s burgeoning avant-garde, with publishers and organisers showering him with offers. By the time the Russian Revolution broke out, Prokofiev had already established himself as a composer who distanced himself from the overgrown late Romantic differentiations of expression and in all directions, not only with entirely new music that broke up the harmonic system in particular but also with the revitalisation of old forms, as in the “Symphonie classique”.

This sparkling work, which sounds like champagne, will be heard at the end of the three-concert Prokofiev project with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under the direction of its chief conductor, Iván Fischer and with pianist Igor Levit, as a toast to a composer who enriched the world with incredibly colourful new harmonies, infinitely wide-ranging melodies and motoric, gripping rhythms and created expressive musical images, the pull of which musicians and listeners alike cannot escape. Prokofiev crossed many worlds, not only in his music but also in his life: He left his homeland for the West immediately after the Russian Revolution because he no longer saw any safe ground as a composer in the upheavals of Russian society via the USA, which initially only welcomed the pianist and only hesitantly the composer, his path led him to Paris as the centre of his life after a short stay in the Bavarian monastery of Ettal. From there, however, he increasingly set off on concert tours in his home country and eventually returned full of hope. But he, too, fell into the clutches of Stalinism because he was not prepared to sacrifice his autonomous creativity to the so-called “closeness to the people” that was demanded. And all this as an artist who “for my part doesn’t care about politics; art has nothing to do with it”. One who remained in constant artistic motion: “A composer must constantly seek new ways of expression. [Ansonsten] It will inevitably repeat itself, which is always the beginning of the end.”

The three-day Prokofiev project at the Musikverein will thus also be a demonstration of permanent creative reinvention. Works created in the West and Russia will be heard in equal measure. The cross-section of this monolithic musical oeuvre in the three concerts ranges from the First Piano Concerto, with which Prokofiev opened up a vast new space for the development of his ideas, to the Fifth Symphony, which captures an entire musical epoch between monumentality and lyricism, to suites from two of his stage works, the opera “The Love for Three Oranges” commissioned in the USA and the ballet “Cinderella” premiered at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, two works in which compassionate music, capturing all the dramas and joys of human life, was created from fairy-tale subjects. The five piano concertos run through this focus as parameters of a constantly renewing but simultaneously continually authentic, unmistakable music, whipping up bold modernity and then giving a feeling of security again. Igor Levit, the soloist between depth of thought and virtuosity, is full of anticipation: “Ever since I was a child, I have dreamed of playing all of Prokofiev’s concertos. Each one is a jewel. Each one is an event. The fact that this dream is finally coming true, and with such wonderful colleagues as the Budapest Festival Orchestra under the direction of Iván Fischer in this unique hall, the Vienna Musikverein, is truly wonderful.”

Rainer Lepuschitz

Concerts 24/25

September 6, 2023

06

Großer Saal

September 6, 2023

05

Großer Saal

September 5, 2023

04

Großer Saal

    © Julia Wesely

    Simply conduct

    © Wolf-Dieter Grabner

    Contemporary music

    Arnold Schönberg Center, Vienna

    Colossal sounds

    © Brand photography

    Conducting on the royal road

    © Deutsche Grammophon - Andreas Hechenberger

    With charisma and temperament

    Archive, Library and Collections of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna

    Fine and fragrant

    © Julia Wesely

    Strong relationships

    © Felix Broede

    Suction effect

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