At a young age, Sergei Prokofiev was condemned as avant-garde and his music was perceived as difficult to understand. It is intriguing, then, that one of his most famous works Symphony No. 1 looks back to the older style of Haydn and is known by the nickname “Classical.” Prokofiev wrote his Classical Symphony in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution. It meshes the classical tradition of clarity and formality with the renegade spirit of Prokofiev’s early works. Although the Classical Symphony fits the usual definition of neoclassicism, Prokofiev never admitted it. It was an isolated experiment, he explained, adding that he disliked Stravinsky’s preoccupation with neoclassicism, which he famously called “Bach on the wrong notes.” Classicism was attractive to the unsentimental Prokofiev because it eschewed the overwrought emotion of Romanticism. As a result, throughout the traditional four-movement form of the symphony we hear playful Haydnesque qualities in the Classical Symphony, as well as references to the Classical practice of alternating opposites: loud and soft, high and low, light and dark.
Classical Symphony premiered in April 1918 in Saint Petersburg (formerly Petrograd), with Prokofiev himself conducting the piece.
In LACO History
This is LACO’s eighth performance of Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony. The last time it was performed was at the Golden Gala and 50th Anniversary Concert at The Music Center’s Mark Taper Forum in April 2018. The Mark Taper Forum was LACO’s first main venue for ten years under founding music director, Neville Marriner.
More about LACO AT HOME
The coronavirus pandemic may prevent us from gathering together to share music in person, but current circumstances will not prevent LACO from providing you with exquisite, enduring, personal musical experiences. We are happy to announce that the musicians of LACO have generously volunteered to share a wide variety of audio and video options during this time. All broadcasts can be live-streamed at laco.org/broadcasts and streamed on-demand at laco.org/on-demand.