Prokofiev in Chicago

During Sergei Prokofiev’s first visit to America, he appeared with the Orchestra as conductor and piano soloist in two U.S. premieres. He was soloist in his First Piano Concerto (under the baton of assistant conductor Eric DeLamarter), and after intermission he conducted his Scythian Suite.

“Prokofiev made his first Chicago appearances as pianist, conductor, and composer at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert yesterday afternoon, and in all three musical capacities proved himself a sensational figure, one who must be reckoned with in the future,” wrote Maurice Rosenfeld in the Chicago Daily News. “He is a remarkably gifted pianist; virile, full of exuberant activity, equipped with a wonderfully complete technique, extraordinary supple wrists which dash off octaves with lightning like rapidity and brilliance, steely fingers which reel forth scale passages of great clarity, and a touch which is directed to reproduce tones which range from mere whisperings to thunderous masses of sound. As a composer, he disclosed himself in his concerto for piano with orchestral accompaniment as a musician of great originality, as a writer who finds beauty in music in rhythmic combination more than in melodic lines, and emotional expression in masses of varying degrees of tones and contrasting dynamic changes.”

December 6 and 7, 1918

December 6 and 7, 1918

Over the next twenty years, Prokofiev returned regularly to Chicago to perform with the Orchestra, both as conductor and soloist. His December 1921 appearances included the world premiere of his Third Piano Concerto (and he conducted the world premiere of his Love for Three Oranges with the Chicago Opera Association at the Auditorium Theatre), and he led the U.S. premieres of his Divertimento in 1930 and the first suite from his ballet Romeo and Juliet in 1937.

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