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Music

A socalist vision

This hour of music features Scriabin's "Prometheus, Poem of Fire" - and a peculiar but very listenable cantata that Sergei Prokofiev wrote for the 20th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Ural Philharmonic, part two

Bringing fire to mankind, Prometheus is sometimes called the father of human consciousness. Russian composer Alexander Scriabin considered his composition on the Prometheus myth to be one of his central works. 

In dialogue with DW, Andrei Korobeinikov, the soloist in our performance, described Scriabin's "Prometheus, Poem of Fire" as telling the history of the world in 25 minutes. "A huge range of human emotions is reflected in the piano part," said Korobeinikov, "so as the pianist, I represent man in this world history. For me, it's a religious moment; when I play this music, I feel purified. I don't even feel like Andrei Korobeinikov anymore, but like an animal - or some atom in the universe performing its teleological function - to use a term from the philosophy of Immanuel Kant."

Alexander Scriabin (picture-alliance/akg-images)

Alexander Scriabin

The other remarkable work this hour could have only come from Russia. Composer Sergei Prokofiev was no big fan of the 1917 October Revolution that ushered in the era of communism in his country. But in the early 1930s, after years of exile in the United States, he did return to his homeland. Wanting to tread on Russian soil again, not as a failed refugee but as the country's number one composer, Prokofiev planned a cantata to be performed on the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution.

He scored the work for four orchestral groups - strings and winds, percussion and an ensemble of accordions - as well as double chorus and vocal soloists. This cantata can hardly be outdone for sheer force of sound. Yet somehow the work was rejected by the Soviet authorities and remained unperformed until the 1960s, nearly a decade after the composer's death. 

For the work, Prokofiev compiled texts by Marx, Lenin and Stalin, but conductor Dmitri Liss told DW that one should not overestimate the importance of these texts. "I think that if Prokofiev had been assigned the task of setting a cookbook to music," said Liss, "he would have excelled at that, too. Sometimes there's a big gap between the texts and the quality of the music. But the power of his music is unbelievable - and I think that in almost any work by Prokofiev you can find a certain degree of irony."

Alexander Scriabin 
Prometheus, the Poem of Fire, op. 60 (excerpt) 

Sergei Prokofiev
Cantata on the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution (1937) 

Andrei Korobeinikov, piano 
Symphonic Chorus of the Yekaterinburg Philharmonic
Ural Philharmonic Orchestra
Dmitri Liss, conductor

Recorded by Deutsche Welle, Bonn (DW) in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn on September 17, 2016.

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