MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

A Fiery, Flaming Symphony

(Prokofiev c. 1918.)

My new essay on Sergei Prokofiev’s fantastic and way-underplayed Third Symphony is now up on San Francisco Symphony‘s web site for the program Michael Tilson Thomas is conducting next week. Thank you, MTT, for championing this work!

Music depicting the ravings of demonic possession, eroticized spiritualism (or spiritualized eroticism), medieval witchcraft and sorcery, and a convent of nuns whipped into mass hysteria—no, it’s not the score to a Stephen King film but a work that has a decent claim to being Sergei Prokofiev’s operatic masterpiece: The Fiery Angel (Ognenniy angel in Russian). A labor of love—and great frustration—The Fiery Angel also served as the source for his Third Symphony (even including much of its orchestration). Prokofiev wrote that he considered the latter “to be one of my best compositions.”

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Filed under: composers, opera, program notes, symphonies

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. I adore “The Fiery Angel,” and had the good luck to be a supernumerary in that wonderful production at the SF Opera in the early 1990s. That’s also the reason I’m not a big fan of this symphony Because Everything Is in the Wrong Order if you know the opera well. Wish I could hear the latter again sometime soon.

  2. Thomas May says:

    Thanks for commenting, Michael. Who directed that production of “The Fiery Angel”?


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