Overture Magazine - 2015-2016 Season March-April 2016 - Page 39

program notes { Symphony No. 5 in B-Flat Major Sergei Prokofiev Born in Sontsovka, Ukraine, April 23, 1891; died in Moscow, March 5, 1953 The premiere of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in Moscow on January 13, 1945 was an occasion charged with emotion. The great Soviet pianist Sviatoslav Richter vividly recalled the moment as Prokofiev mounted the podium: “He stood like a monument on a pedestal. And then, when [he] had taken his place… and silence reigned in the hall, artillery salvos suddenly thundered forth. His baton was raised. He waited, and began only after the cannons had stopped. There was something very significant in this, something symbolic. It was as if all of us —including Prokofiev — had reached some kind of shared turning point.” Richter’s observation was accurate. The cannons that interrupted the start of the Fifth Symphony were celebrating the news that the Soviet Army was crossing the Vistula River into the territory of Nazi Germany. The end of World War II was now assuredly in sight. The music that followed this joyful roar proved worthy of the moment, and 40 minutes later, the audience set off its own explosion. For with his longest and arguably greatest symphony, Prokofiev had summed up the mood of the Russian people at this momentous time in their history with music that pa