Prokofiev 1 (1st movement) as standard rep?

November 16, 2019, 6:23 AM · Applying to music programmes/conservatories and many of them ask for a movement of the standard repertoire in the video application
Would Prokofiev 1st concerto, 1st movement be considered a suitable choice?

Replies (9)

Edited: November 16, 2019, 6:39 PM · yes.

(edit) You will need to play the opening especially beautifully. First impressions mean a lot.

November 16, 2019, 2:28 PM · yes but only do it if you can play it really well.
November 16, 2019, 3:04 PM · Yes; if any of them ask for the full concerto be prepared to play the opening of the 2nd movement in the live audition as well.
Edited: November 16, 2019, 6:07 PM · Prokofiev 1 is standard violin rep and would be suitable for any audition that doesn't have an exclusive list. I agree with Mary Ellen though - you should only do it if you feel you can do something really special with it. The first few minutes are usually all a committee gets to hear, and the opening of Prokofiev 1 is more subtle in nature than a lot of the common audition pieces (i.e. Brahms, Sibelius, Beethoven, Dvorak, etc). Since the intrinsic technical difficulty of the material doesn't pull a ton of weight in showing you off as a player, you have to do to more with the musical material (i.e. different colors, dynamics, phrasings, etc). Obviously, these are important things to focus on regardless of repertoire choice, but the opening of Prokofiev 1 lacks difficult runs or really much moving material at all, so you don't automatically score points with the listener for simply nailing runs like you might with the openings of the Brahms, Tchaikovsky, or Sibelius. Still, it's a beautiful piece and if done with a lot of musical imagination, it can really make you stand out.
November 16, 2019, 6:01 PM · By a couple of lines into the work, you have ample opportunity to show off with those huge leaps up and down the fingerboard, and difficulty will accelerate from there. The opening itself is a feat of control which will be pretty telling to a committee, too.
Edited: November 18, 2019, 6:11 PM · A good piece of a advice comes from the great Nathan Milstein, whose recording of the Prokofiev #1 still stands the test of time and continues to be my favorite. He tells Pinchas Zukerman in an interview that he tries "not to spoil the mood" when he plays. Most violinists don't capture the "sognando" mood very well. They play it too romantically and with a heavy vibrato. Try your best to really understand the mood and picture in your mind what that opening scene might have looked and felt like to a young man (Prokofiev), who was madly in love (pazzo d'amore) with a young lady during the time he wrote this concerto. It's a fairy tale that begins and ends in a dream.
Edited: November 18, 2019, 1:46 PM · This may not add to the wisdom and experience above, but in (I think) the late 1950's or early 60's I heard David Oistrakh play the Prokofiev 1st in Chicago. His playing of the first movement was absolutely beautiful and captured the right mood.

However, his playing of the 2nd movement, with its spectacular technical challenges, wasn't so good. He got off to a bad start, and the performance was sloppy and littered with imperfections.

His performance of the 3rd movement was back to a superior and beautiful performance - technically and musically.

In spite of the disastrous 2nd movement, the audience gave Oistrakh a standing ovation. He walked off-stage, and then came back. As an encore, he replayed that 2nd movement. This time, the performance was absolutely spectacular and thrilling.

It's one of those thing you never forget. And I can still hear - in my 'mind's ear' - many passages of that evening's performance.

But, yes, that first movement created a mood that was comparatively quiet but unforgettable.


November 18, 2019, 12:42 PM · Agree with the others. Prokofiev 1-1 is OK for an audition. It is good for the nerves because it starts rather calm and easy; you don't crash and burn on something very hard during the first phrase, like some other concertos. Then it gets gradually more impressive. I had a successful college entrance audition with Prok. 1-1. They let me play about two pages.
November 18, 2019, 2:31 PM · Though if your hands shake, the opening of Prokofiev 1 is a potential problem. The opening is placid; you cannot freely expend bow to control right-hand shakes. You want to limit vibrato for tone color reasons, and what you use has to be sparing and controlled, so if your left-hand shakes, it's likely to be audible.

Never have I more wished for a beta blocker for a performance.

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