Prokofiev’s First Symphony, Haydn, and Prokofiev

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“It seemed to me that if Haydn had lived into our age, he would have preserved his own way of composing and, at the same time, absorbed something from the new music. That was the kind of symphony I wanted to write: a symphony in the classical style.” – Sergei Prokofiev

The First Symphony is especially intriguing in light of the view of Prokofiev as a leading figure of the Russian avant-garde in the early decades of the twentieth century. The work’s anachronistic “Classical” moniker seems particularly apt in respect to a number of its features.

The symphony is in a familiar four-movement form:

I. Allegro
II. Intermezzo. Larghetto
III. Gavotte. Non troppo allegro
IV. Finale. Molto vivace

Pictured: Prokofiev’s First Symphony, Haydn, and Prokofiev

Alexander Scriabin

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Keys arranged in a circle of fifths in order to show the spectral relationship.

Though Scriabin’s works are often considered to be influenced by synesthesia, a condition wherein one experiences sensation in one sense in response to stimulus in another, it is doubted that he actually experienced this. His colour system, unlike most synesthetic experience, accords with the circle of fifths: it was a thought-out system based on Sir Isaac Newton’s Opticks. Note that Scriabin did not, for his theory, recognize a difference between a major and a minor tonality of the same name (for example: c-minor and C-Major). Indeed, influenced also by the doctrines of theosophy, he developed his system of synesthesia toward what would have been a pioneering multimedia performance: his unrealized magnum opus Mysterium was to have been a grand week-long performance including music, scent, dance, and light in the foothills of the Himalayas Mountains that was somehow to bring about the dissolution of the world in bliss.

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Scriabin’s original colour keyboard, with its associated turntable of coloured lamps, is preserved in his apartment near the Arbat in Moscow, which is now a museum dedicated to his life and works.

Polaroid camera

“In 1977, on my wedding ceremony in Moscow Tarkovsky appeared with a Polaroid camera. He had just shortly discovered this instrument and used it with great pleasure among us. He and Antonioni were my wedding witnesses. According to the custom of the period they had to choose the music played during the signing of the wedding documents. They chose the “Blue Danube”.
At that time Antonioni also often used a Polaroid camera. I remember that in the course of a field survey in Usbekistan where we wanted to shoot a film – but finally did not do it – he gave to three elderly Muslims the pictures he had taken of them. The eldest one as soon as he took a glance at the photos, immediately returned them with these words: “What is it good for, to stop the time?” This unusual refusal was so unexpected that it took us by surprise and we could not reply anything.
Tarkovsky thought a lot about the “flight” of time and wanted to do only one thing: to stop it – even if only for a moment, on the pictures of the Polaroid camera.”

Tonino Guerra

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I suggest (click on a Trakovsky’s photograph to take a look at the 5 page gallery)

and.