Prokofieff’s American Overture was composed in 1926 for the celebratory opening of the new Aeolian Hall in New York. As the hall was small, he wrote for just 17 players and an extremely unusual line-up of instruments, including two harps, two pianos, plenty of percussion and no upper strings. The music, however, is anything but small. It overflows with noisy energy and is vividly suggestive of the brashness of 1920s New York. This is a ‘Russian in New York’ overture to answer Gershwin’s ‘American in Paris’! As the smaller orchestration sounds thin in larger concert halls, Prokofieff soon made an alternative version for full symphony orchestra, which makes an exuberant concert opener.
Note by Gerard McBurney