Sudden Changes, Short Fantasy for Orchestra 2017 | 15 mins
The composer offers these comments on Sudden Changes: “It must be fifty years ago that I first met Michael Tilson Thomas, who was then at a very young age playing in an ensemble work of mine I was conducting in Los Angeles. . . . Now it is a joy to have provided a light-hearted overture to concerts of the San Francisco Symphony, an institution with which I had such a happy association (and so many splendid performances) as Composer-in-Residence some years ago. I am deeply grateful for my long friendship with MTT, and these performances are therefore a special treat for me. The piece itself is a single movement of roughly fourteen and a half minutes, and is composed using some fragments from an opera of mine called Haroun and the Sea of Stories.”
Piano Concerto No. 3 1921 | 30 mins
The annals of Prokofieviana are filled with sketches for compositions that never reached completion. But Prokofiev was also a pragmatic composer, and rather than let perfectly good work go to waste he frequently recycled music intended for an unfinished project into one that held more promise. Such was the case with the Third Piano Concerto. He composed it mostly in 1921, but he drew on quite a few scraps of music that had come into being earlier and been intended originally for other pieces. This concerto consists of three movements, a standard layout for a concerto but not for a Prokofiev concerto, as all his others conform to less usual patterns. It is famously difficult for the dexterity and stamina it requires of the soloist and, as a result, stands near the top of the list of ultra-virtuosic showpiece concertos. And yet this is no “show-off” concerto; it’s a work of passionate expression and flies from the keyboard with what sounds like bursts of spontaneity.
Third Symphony 1946 | 38 mins
Excerpted from Copland’s program notes on the Third Symphony: “The Third Symphony . . . is scored for a big orchestra. It was composed in the general form of an arch, in which the central portion, that is the second-movement scherzo, is the most animated, and the final movement is an extended coda, presenting a broadened version of the opening material. . . . Some of the writing in the third movement is for very high strings and piccolo, with no brass except single horn and trumpet. . . . One aspect of the Third Symphony ought to be pointed out: it contains no folk or popular material. Any reference to either folk material or jazz in this work was purely unconscious. However, I do borrow from myself by using Fanfare for the Common Man in an expanded and reshaped form in the final movement. I used this opportunity to carry the Fanfare material further and to satisfy my desire to give the Third Symphony an affirmative tone. After all, it was a wartime piece—or more accurately, an end-of-war piece—intended to reflect the euphoric spirit of the country at the time. It is an ambitious score, often compared to Mahler and to Shostakovich and sometimes Prokofiev, particularly the second movement.”
Jeanette Yu is Director of Publications at the San Francisco Symphony.