SchPro Intro

Severance Hall
March 12 – Thursday at 7:30 p.m. 

March 13 – Friday at 11:00 a.m.*
March 14 – Saturday at 8:00 p.m. 


A Tale of Two Composers

This weekend’s concerts present music by two composers, born a century apart, purposely paired for effect and understanding.  The musical languages of each are tellingly of their times — classically Romantic and warmly Modern.  Franz Schubert was Austrian, Sergei Prokofiev was Russian-Soviet.  They each were prolific and masters of many forms, writing vast quantities of music and in many different genres  — symphony, opera, chamber music, songs and choral works, and more.

As Franz Welser-Möst discusses on the following pages, the idea to juxtapose the music of these two composers came to him across a number of years, through studying scores and leading performances.  Pairing their music together brings out both their differences and commonalities, with their music featured in a number of concerts across the 2019-20 season — including this weekend’s intensive look at two pairs of symphonies.  

Both composers had a natural gift for melody, especially for the voice in Schubert and for the orchestra in Prokofiev.  And both use a keenly honed sense and understanding of rhythm for telling effect.  

In his Second and Third symphonies, Prokofiev writes decidedly modern music.  In the Second he riffs on the sounds of modernity — machines, planes, factories, mechanized warfare.  The material of the Third, in contrast, is drawn from his opera The Fiery Angel, here rebuilt into a symphonic tale, told in music belying its origins in a storyline of transcendence, uncertainty, and a powerful sense of drama.

In contrast, Schubert’s works harken to a golden age of symphonic exploration, from his early Third (written at age eighteen) to his crowning achievement in the Symphony in C major, nicknamed “The Great” (meaning large and big, although, yes, it is also decidedly very good).  This is symphony writ large, pulsed with energy and certainty.  

Eric Sellen