Prokofiev and Leifs agree: "There's no place like home!"
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953): Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26 –Martha Argerich, piano; Montréal Symphony; Charles Dutoit, cond. (EMI Classics 56654) Jón Leifs (1899-1968): Saga Symphony –Iceland Symphony; Osmo Vänskä, cond. (BIS 730)
Composer's Datebook - September 18, 2022
On this day in 1918, Russian composer Serge Prokofiev arrived in America to give a recital of his piano works in New York. He told interviewers that despite the revolution in his homeland and widespread conditions of famine, Russian musicians continued to work.
Prokofiev himself, however, stayed away from his homeland for years. His opera “The Love for Three Oranges” and his Third Piano Concerto received their premieres in Chicago in 1921. From 1922 to 1932, Prokofiev lived mainly in Paris before eventually returning home for good.
Another temporary expatriate composer, Jón Leifs of Iceland, also has an anniversary today, when in 1950, his “Saga-Symphony” was performed for the first time in Helsinki. Leifs was born in Iceland in 1899 and died there in 1968. He studied in Leipzig, where, in his words, he (quote) “began searching whether, like other countries, Iceland had some material that could be used as a starting-point for new music… some spark that could light the fire.”
Leif’s years in Germany coincided with the rise of the Nazis, who at first found him a sympathetic Nordic composer. When Leifs married a Jewish woman, however, he soon fell out of favor and eventually fled to Sweden with his family. After the war he returned home and today is honored as Iceland’s first great composer.
Music Played in Today's Program
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953): Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26 –Martha Argerich, piano; Montréal Symphony; Charles Dutoit, cond. (EMI Classics 56654)
Jón Leifs (1899-1968): Saga Symphony –Iceland Symphony; Osmo Vänskä, cond. (BIS 730)
On This Day
1893 - Australian composer Arthur Benjamin, in Sydney;
1910 - Polish-born Israeli composer Josef Tal, in Pinne (near Posen);
1970 - Rock guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix, age 27, from asphyxiation due to an overdose of barbiturates
1954 - Virgil Thomson: Concerto for flute, strings and percussion, in Venice;
1960 - Penderecki: "Dimensions of Time and Silence," during "Warsaw Autumn" International Festival of Contemporary Music;
1978 - Shostakovich: unfinished opera "The Gamblers" (after Nikolai Gogol), in Leningrad at the Large Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic;
1986 - Corigliano: "Fantasia on an Ostinato" by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta;
1998 - Bright Sheng: "Spring Dreams," by cellist Yo-Yo Ma with the Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwartz conducting.
1998 - Michael Torke: "Lucent Variations," in St. Paul, Minn., by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Hugh Wolff conducting.