Soviet art favoured the heroic and the grandiose, and in later years Prokofieff many times created music with an epic, even cinematic feel. But hardly ever did he write a piece like this extraordinary Symphonic Song, which weirdly combines the grandeur of official and public music with some of the most abrasive, personal and modernistic harmonies this paradoxical composer ever penned. The result is virtually a one-movement symphony, underpinned throughout with menacing march-rhythms and cast in a sweeping andante-allegro-andante arch-form, beginning with what the composer himself called ‘darkness’, before proceeding through violent struggle to a blazing but deeply ambiguous conclusion. The Symphonic Song is one of Prokofieff’s least known orchestral works and yet one of the most excitingly virtuosic scores he ever wrote.
Note by Gerard McBurney