Composers Datebook®

Prokofiev's Sixth and Seventh

Composer's Datebook - October 11, 2023


By a coincidence, the last two symphonies of Soviet composer Sergei Prokofiev premiered on today’s date: His Sixth Symphony premiered in Leningrad in 1947, and his final, Seventh Symphony, in Moscow, in 1952.

The Sixth Symphony is tragic in tone, and Prokofiev confided that it was about the physical and emotional wounds suffered by his countrymen during World War II. The Sixth was premiered at the opening concert of the Leningrad Philharmonic’s 1947 season and was applauded warmly by both audiences and the official Soviet critics. But early in 1948, Prokofiev somehow ran afoul of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and his Sixth was quickly withdrawn from further performances.

Prokofiev’s Seventh was intended to be a symphony for children, a kind of symphonic Peter and the Wolf, written in a deliberately populist style and with a wary eye on the dictates of the Central Committee. It’s an airy, almost transparently melodic score. Originally, it had a wistful, somewhat melancholic ending, with the music trailing off into silence. During the final dress rehearsals, however, Prokofiev wrote an alternative, perhaps more “politically correct” finale, decidedly chipper and upbeat in tone.

Music Played in Today's Program

Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953) Symphony No. 6 - National Symphony; Leonard Slatkin, cond. RCA/BMG 68801

Symphony No. 7 - French National Orchestra; Mstislav Rostropovich, cond. Erato 75322

On This Day


  • 1882 - Canadian-born American composer R. Nathaniel Dett, in Drummondsville, Ontario;


  • 1896 - Austrian composer Anton Bruckner, age 72, in Vienna;


  • 1727 - Handel: "Coronation Anthems," in London at Westminster Abbey during the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline (Gregorian date: Oct. 22);

  • 1830 - Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, in Warsaw, composer as soloist;

  • 1928 - Nielsen: Clarient Concerto, at a public concert in Copenhagen, with the composer conducting and Aage Ozenvad the soloist; This concert had been given a private performance in Humlebaek on September 14, 1928);

  • 1947 - Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6, by Leningrad Philharmonic, Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting;

  • 1952 - Prokofiev: Symphony No. 7, by Moscow Philharmonic, Samuil Samosud conducting;

  • 1953 - Messiaen: "Réveil des oiseaux," in Donaueschingen, Germany;

  • 1955 - B.A. Zimmermann: "Nobody Knows de Trouble I See" for Trumpet and Orchestra, in Hamburg, by the North German Radio Orchestra conducted by Ernest Bour, with Adolf Scherbaum the soloist;

  • 1962 - Carlisle Floyd: opera "The Passion on Jonathan Wader," by the New York City Opera;

  • 1977 - Bernstein: "Songfest," "Three Mediations from 'Mass,'" and "Slava!" by the National Symphony, conducted by the composer ("Songfest" and "Meditations"‚ and Mstislav Rostropovich ("Slava!"); Rostropovich was also the cello soloist in the "'Meditations";

  • 1980 - Bernstein: "A Musical Toast ( A Fanfare in Memory of André Kostelanetz)" by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta;

  • 1980 - Zemlinksy: opera "Der Traumgörge" (Goerge the Dreamer), posthumously, in Nuremberg at the Opernhaus (This opera was written in 1906);

  • 1985 - John Harbison: String Quartet No. 1, at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., by the Cleveland Quartet.

  • 1985 - Michael Torke: “Vanada” for brass, keyboards and percussion, at the Concertgebouw Chamber Hall in Amsterdam, by the Asko Ensemble, Lukas Vis conducting.

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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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