Prokofiev started writing his FIRST VIOLIN CONCERTO in the spring of 1914, but completed it only three years later. During this time, he worked on the ballet Ala and Lolli, commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev (from which he later extracted his famous Scythian Suite) and the opera The Gambler, based on the eponymous novelette of Dostoevsky. The immensely prolific year 1917 saw the creation of such works as the piano miniatures cycle Visions fugitives (“Fleeting Visions”), the Classic Symphony, his cantata There Were Seven of Them, his Third and Fourth Piano Sonatas, as well as the First Violin Concerto.
The work’s first performance was scheduled for November 1917, with Paul Kochanski as soloist (who consulted Prokofiev while the work was being composed), and Alexander Siloti as conductor. But these intentions were foiled by the advent of the October revolution.
The premiere nevertheless took place, but five years later, on 18 October 1923, at the Paris Grand Opera, under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky. The solo part was performed by the orchestra concertmaster, Marcel Darrieux. Prominent figures were in attendance, such as Pablo Picasso, Alexander Benoit, Anna Pavlova, Karol Szymanowski, Arthur Rubinstein, etc.
Initially, the piece was received rather coolly – the avant-garde audience considered it to be insufficiently modern, still reflecting some vestigial traces of Romanticism. But over time, the concerto gained increasing popularity, especially after the magnificent performance of Joseph Szigeti, which took place in Paris on 28 December 1928. Years later, the celebrated violinist wrote that he could sense in the concerto “the mood of a little boy, attentively listening to a fairy tale”.
The concerto’s lucid and contemplative lyricism and ebullient scherzando manner have attracted over the years some of the greatest twentieth century performers – among them David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern, Nathan Milstein, Ruggiero Ricciwho have left magnificent recordings of the work.