Worlds Come Together in Prokofiev's Dreamy and Difficult Piano Concerto No. 3

Oct 7, 2019

In 1921, Sergei Prokofiev himself described his 3rd Piano Concerto as 'devilishly difficult' as he prepared to play the premiere in Chicago. One hundred years later, it's among the most popular works in the genre, with ideas that are ever relevant. WRTI's Susan Lewis has more.

Beatrice Rana plays Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 with The Philadelphia Orchestra led by Yannick Nezet Seguin in a concert broadcast on WRTI Thursday, April 23rd at 7 PM on HD-2, and streamed online, and on Friday, April 24th at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1 and our classical stream.

Prokofiev was in his late 20s when he worked to finish his 3rd Piano Concerto, a work with ideas he had played with for nearly a decade. He'd left Russia in the wake of the October Revolution of 1917 to live in the U.S. and Europe.

While the concerto has no explict narrative, it conjures for pianist Beatrice Rana the different worlds Prokofiev was inhabiting.

"It's really a such a dreamy start really, I imagine being in Russia and you know, to have these huge landscapes or the sound just goes without any obstacle."

Then suddenly, something interrupts the dream.

"This is the other part, the machinery part that Prokofiev was so devoted to, and Prokofiev was inspired by. I don't say this because I'm Italian," she says with a smile, "but Prokofiev was inspird by the new Italian movement of philosophy that was the futurism—where really man was a machine. "

The music is driving, rhythmic, relentless.  "And there is no room for humanity in a sense that rhythm is the main thing."

And yet, the mood changes again, turning the machine like rhythm into a dance.  "So it's again, human."

Rana has been bringing this concerto to concert halls across America and Europe, where each conductor brings out different aspects of a work she loves so much. 

Prokofiev, who played the premiere with the Chicago Symphony in 1921, returned with his family to live in his homeland in 1936.