Questions or technical issues? Please email info@chicagochambermusic.org


CCM WebSite

EncoreCCM

Name of Work

Prokofiev, Sergei (1891-1953)
Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34

Movements:
Overture on Hebrew Themes

Performances:


Feb 08, 2009



Steve Cohen, Clarinet
Jasmine Lin, Violin
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Clancy Newman, Cello
Lori Kaufman, Piano


Feb 09, 2009



Steve Cohen, Clarinet
Jasmine Lin, Violin
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Clancy Newman, Cello
Lori Kaufman, Piano

PROKOFIEV-Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34

Composed in 1919

BACKGROUND
Prokofiev settled in the United States for a short time following World War I and the Russian Revolution. In 1919, in New York City, he met some fellow alumni of the St. Petersburg Conservatory who performed together under the name of Zimro. The group consisted of a clarinetist, a pianist and a string quartet. Showing him a notebook of traditional Jewish melodies, they asked him to write a piece they could perform as an ensemble, instead of breaking themselves up into various smaller components. Eventually intrigued by the tunes' possibilities, Prokofiev came up with the Overture on Hebrew Themes that was premiered in New York in 1920. It was such a success that he later orchestrated it as a kind of miniature clarinet concerto.

Conductor-violinist Yuli Turovsky recorded the orchestral version of Overture on Hebrew Themes with his ensemble I Musici de Montreal. In notes for the recording, he recalls: "In the Soviet Union, the Jewish Overture was not performed for decades, at least as far as I can remember, in Moscow, where I lived. And when in the early '70s I decided with some friends to perform the version for sextet as part of a concert in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, it was made clear to us that the word 'Jewish' somehow did not look right on a poster for the Moscow State Philharmonic, and that we would do better selecting a different work. Having no intention to give in, but wanting to save the program, we agreed to a compromise. On the poster and in the printed program was written simply, "Prokofiev, Overture, Op. 34.' The embarassing word 'Jewish' did not desecrate the walls of the Moscow Conservatory, and neither did it appear posted all over the town in thousands of copies. Nevertheless, the rumor that we were to perform the 'Jewish Overture' spread rapidly throughout Moscow. The hall was overcrowded and the success was so great that we had to repeat the work twice in its entirety. The flag was in the pocket -- but the pocket was apparently transparent enough."

MUSIC
The work's moderately fast pace of Un Poco Allegro never really changes; the basic key is C Minor, and the structure is based on sonata form, though the prominence of the opening clarinet theme makes it really sound more like a rondo: a recurring idea interspersed with contrasting material. With steady accompaniment from piano and strings, the clarinet offers the main theme, a klezmer-like tune that starts in the instrument's lowest register and brings out its sultry, mellow tone color. The strings present a counter-motive that combines with the clarinet, and they also pick up the main theme. A more lyrical theme for the strings gradually emerges, a plaintive, sad, yet singing melody in which the piano joins. There's a short pause before the clarinet returns to its opening theme, varied, creating a short development section. The strings continue to intertwine with their wind partner, but very shortly we're back to the main theme in recapitulation. The cello re-introduces the strings' lyrical theme in a duo with the piano. Then a brilliant coda further expands the clarinet's theme and leads to a high-spirited conclusion.

Program notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performance dates: February 8 & 9, 2009

This is CCM’s first performance of this work.



Performance Audio