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Repertoire Note

In his later Soviet years, Prokofieff often returned to earlier works and revised them, bending them to his own changing style and language and making them, as best he could, more practical and effective. In the case of the Fourth Symphony, his revisions are so extensive that the new version is effectively a completely new piece - another symphony. The delightful lightness, quirkiness and laconicism of the 1930 original are pared away to be replaced by something far more massive, Soviet and ‘symphonic’. Comparing the two, you will immediately notice that the 1947 Fourth is almost half as long again as the original and contains many new ideas. The scoring is grander, there is a powerful sense of public rhetoric and heroism, and there are striking fanfares at the beginning and end which give the music a monumental feel.

Both versions of this symphony have a perfect right to exist. And if it seems a pity that Prokofieff sacrificed the delicacy and detachment of the original when he made this second version, there is no doubt that the 1947 symphony is far more sweeping, dramatic and accessible in style.

Note by Gerard McBurney



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