By Sergei Prokofiev
Composed in 1935
The Russian contemporary of Honegger, Sergei Prokofiev grew up in the atmosphere of late Russian Romanticism that he abandoned as soon as his compositional style gained strength and individuality. His works already had very early on a motor, sometimes anti-emotional character, a tendency that Prokofiev, in the 1930s, would call “New Simplicity”—a rather theatrical, staged return to classic forms and means of expression different from Romanticized music.
After the Soviet revolution, Prokofiev in 1918 was granted an exit visa from the new Soviet government and went to Paris, where his 1st Violin Concerto received its premier. Although it had been difficult to find a soloist for the first concerto—many violinists “flatly refused to learn that music”—the 2nd Violin Concerto was commissioned by a group of admirers of the French violinist Robert Soëtans.
Written in 1935, shortly before his final return to his home country Russia (which he visited only briefly, having worked abroad since 1918), Prokofiev wrote: “The variety of places in which the concerto was written is a reflection of the nomadic concert-tour existence I led at that time: the principal theme of the first movement in Paris, the first theme of the second movement in Voronezh, the instrumentation was completed in Baku and the first performance was given in Madrid.”