Unexpected. Intense. Sweeping. Not unlike the man himself. Composer-pianist Sergei Prokofiev’s Quartet No 1 in B Minor, Opus 50 is distinctive from the haunting opening notes to the very last consuming melody. Components such as its B Minor key, a semitone below the limits of the viola and cello range, and unexpected reversal in the finale being the slow movement, add to the unique nature of the piece.
Prokofiev so loved the finale that he transcribed it for both a string orchestra (Op. 50a) and his first love; the piano (Op. 52). Despite his prolific works, characteristic in their diatonic melodies, Prokofiev’s compositions never achieved the notoriety of his 20th century counterparts or acclaim of Western academics and critics due to remaining hostilities left over from the cold war. Yet, his orchestral music is performed in the United States more than any other composer of the last 100 years, save Richard Strauss. The Russian, perhaps a romantic at heart and deeply influenced by his country’s war, also composed Romeo and Juliet and tackled an operatic version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Performing Prokofiev’s Quartet No 1 in B Minor, Opus 50 along with the more widely known Quartet in F Minor, Opus 95 “Serioso” by Ludwig van Beethoven and Béla Bartók’s Quartet No. 5 Sz.102. is the Pavel Haas Quartet Sunday, October 11th at 3pm. Gramophone Magazine’s prestigious Recording of the Year winners in 2011, the quartet excels in communicating with each other for flawless, energetic performances. See concert details and ticket prices here.