The Prodigal Son was the most successful of Prokofieff’s Western European ballets and remains one of his greatest scores. He himself loved this music, recognising perhaps that in it he had at last achieved the absolute melodic clarity, fluidity and simplicity he had been seeking for so long. This is a score of real human sympathy and feeling, a worthy companion to the later Romeo and Juliet and perhaps the first of his completely mature works. It could have been written by no other composer.
Famously Prokofieff reused and developed further the music of this ballet in the two versions of his Fourth Symphony and in other pieces. But he also made this symphonic suite for concert performance, again shortening and reordering the original, but preserving its touching simplicity and directness which is so important a part of its greatness. This easily programmable suite richly deserves to be heard more often in our concert-halls.
Note by Gerard McBurney