Great Art Bad Reviews Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1

About Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1, a great work of art which was originally given bad reviews.


Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1

The Work: At the age of 23, Russian musician Sergei Prokofiev gave the first public performance of his Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Opus 10. It won him the Anton Rubinstein Prize--a grand piano.

The Critics Speak: Prokofiev's daring, passionate, dynamic concerto caused many critics great consternation, though audiences were charmed by it.

Leonid Sabaneyev wrote in Golos Moskvy: "This energetic rhythmic, harsh, coarse primitive cacophony hardly deserves to be called music."

Grigori Prokofiev, a critic for Russkiye Vedomosti, complained of "harsh writing and a complete unwillingness to compromise with the listener's taste."

Critic N. Bernstein called it "musical mud."

James Gibbons Huneker wrote in The New York Times in 1918: "The first Piano Concerto of Prokofiev was in one movement, but compounded of many rhythms and recondite noises... The composer handled the keyboard--handled is the right word--and the duel that ensued between his 10 flail-like fingers [and the piano was a battle] to the death; the death of euphony... the piano all the while shrieking, groaning, howling, fighting back, and in several instances it seemed to rear and bite the hand that chastised it... There were moments when the piano and orchestra made sounds that evoked not only the downfall of empires, but also of fine crockery, the fragments flying in all directions...The Concerto will never be played by anyone on earth ... Prokofiev wouldn't grant an encore. The Russian heart may be a dark place, but its capacity for mercy is infinite."

For the New York Tribune, H.E. Krehbiel wrote, "Mr. Prokofiev's pieces have been contributions not to the art of music, but to national pathology and pharmacopoeia... the pianoforte solos... invite their own damnation, because there is nothing in them to hold attention.... They pursue no aesthetic purpose, strive for no recognizable ideal, proclaim no means for increasing the expressive potency of music. They are simply perverse."

History Speaks: Happily, Prokofiev never worried about bad reviews. When he died in 1953, he had written more than 135 works and had never ceased to be innovative. The First Concerto is now considered a brilliant piece of composing which heralded the arrival of a musical genius.

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