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About the program

For today’s concert, Iván Fischer has chosen the works of two classical Russian composers of the 20th century – Prokofiev and Stravinsky. Their careers show several similarities; they have parallel musical roots and they both left Russia during the 1917 revolution. Stravinsky remained in Europe, then the United States, while Prokofiev, unhappy abroad, was enticed home by the Soviet authorities.

Prokofiev composed his Overture on Hebrew themes, Op. 34, in America in the autumn of 1919. The original version was written for a sextet of Jewish musicians called the Zimro Ensemble, the members of which had all studied under Prokofiev at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. It took ten days for the composer to compile a final version from the themes improvised on a piano, and following a successful New York premiere he arranged it for a small orchestra.

Prokofiev wrote the Violin concerto in G minor in 1935 for French violinist Robert Soetens who premiered it in Madrid the same year. Originally, the piece was intended to be a sonata for violin and piano but it outgrew these confines during the composition process.

Stravinsky’s Jeu de cartes (Card Game) was written in 1936 for the American Ballet to a libretto by the composer and M. Malaev, with choreography by George Balanchine. Today’s concert presents the suite in three ‘deals’ which follow each other attacca. All three begin with a march-like introduction, symbolising the shuffling and dealing of the cards. The protagonists are all cards in a game of poker, where the joker disturbs the peace. Jeu de cartes premiered in New York in 1937.

Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird, written to accompany Mikhail Fokin’s story, is described as a ‘Fairy-tale ballet in two tableaux’. The piece was premiered in 1910 by Diaghilev’s company, Ballets Russes, in Paris. This was Stravinsky’s first work for Diaghilev. The ballet brought Stravinsky fame and recognition overnight. A year later the composer reduced the ballet to an orchestral suite, which he revised twice later on. The second version, dating from 1919, is the one most commonly heard in concert.


Sergei Prokofiev: Overture on Hebrew themes, Op. 34
Sergei Prokofiev: Violin concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63
Igor Stravinsky: Jeu de cartes
Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird suite, No. 2 (1919)


Iván Fischer


Thomas Zehetmair, violin