Composers Datebook®

Prokofiev in Pavlovsk

Composers Datebook for August 23, 2018


The first railway line in Russia opened in 1837 and ran from St. Petersburg to Pavlovsk. In the summers, tourists from St. Petersburg would travel to Pavlovsk to visit the site of an 18th century royal palace, to dine at the elegant Vauxhall restaurant, or take in an orchestral concert.

The Russian railroad had enticed Johann Strauss’s orchestra to perform there in the 1850s, and Pavlovsk remained a popular summertime concert venue for several decades.

In 1913, the young Sergei Prokofiev traveled to Pavlovsk to appear as the soloist in the first performance of his Piano Concerto No. 2. The premiere occurred on today’s date that year, and the music of young firebrand composer-performer proved to be far from the standard light classical fare normally offered in Pavlovsk.

One reviewer wrote: “Prokofiev’s music left listeners frozen with fright, their hair standing on end.” Another critic wrote: “One couple stood up and ran for the exit, commenting, ‘Such music is enough to drive you crazy! What is he doing, making fun of us? We came here to enjoy ourselves. The cats at home can make music like this!’”

Even so, one calmer review concluded: “This means nothing. Ten years from now the public will atone for the catcalls by applauding unanimously a new composer with a European reputation.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Sergei Prokofiev (1892 - 1953) Piano Concerto No. 2 Alexander Toradze, piano; Kirov Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, cond. Philips 462 048

On This Day


  • 1854 - German pianist and composer of Polish descent Moritz Moszkowski, in Brelau;

  • 1900 - Austrian-born American composer Ernst Krenek, in Vienna;

  • 1905 - English composer, conductor and writer Constant Lambert, in London;


  • 1937 - French composer Albert Roussel, age 68, in Royan;

  • 1960 - American lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, age 65, in Doylestown, Pa.;

  • 1962 - American composer Irving Fine, age 47, in Boston;


  • 1735 - Rameau, opera-ballet "Les Indes galantes," in Paris;

  • 1906 - R. Vaughan-Williams: "Norfolk Rhapsody," in London;

  • 1913 - Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2 (first version), at Pavlovsk, conducted by A.P. Aslanov with the composer as soloist (Gregorian date: Sept. 5); A second version of this concerto premiered in Paris on May 8, 1924, conducted by Serge Koussevitzky, again with the composer a soloist;

  • 1964 - Stravinsky: "Abraham and Isaac" (dedicated to the people and the state of Israel), in Jerusalem by the Israel Festival Orchestra conducted by Robert Craft;


  • 1934 - The Berkshire Symphonic Festival in founded in Stockbridge, Mass., by American composer and conductor Henry Hadley, with the participation of the New York Philharmonic; The Festival later became associated with the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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