In diaries and biographies on Sergey Prokofiev (1891-1953,) references to Chicago and artists in Chicago, particularly Cleofonte Campanini, Konstantin Balmont, and Frederick Stock, arise many times. Prokofiev finished the composing of Piano concerto No.3 C major, op.26 in Chicago and premiered with Chicago symphony orchestra, conducted by Frederick Stock in December 16, 1921. There is evident that the atmosphere of Chicago and character itself, either directly or indirectly, influences Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3. According to musical term that used in the Concerto, to play Prokofiev’s Concerto includes performance directions that reflect his experience of winter, feeling of energy, unpleasing townscape and critical disapproval of his concerts in Chicago.
In his life time, Prokofiev made several trip to Chicago, August 23, 1918 (September 5), November 18, 1918 (December 1), December 2, 1918 (December 15), October 31, 1920, and October 28, 1921.
On the first trip he was taken three-hour omnibus tour round Chicago. “Chicago- for so long a city of mythical status for me…I anticipated being bowled over by Chicago’s overwhelming energy and mobility, and I did feel something of this, but the city itself seemed somehow cramped and unattractive, with large tracts of soot-stained houses.”At this time Prokofiev was already started composing Piano Concerto No.3 and he finished the second variation of the second movement. The second variation is a heavily syncopated deconstruction of the main theme with a lumbering jazzy backbeat. Prokofiev’s inventive proficiency in punctuating lyrical passages with sharp dissonances, the orchestra rises above contributory accompaniment to play very actively. According to Prokofiev’s first feeling of Chicago, dissonant chords are reflection of Chicago’s character which is cramped and unattractive for him.
In November 18, 1918 Prokofiev arrived in Chicago again. This travel’s mission was a meeting with Campanini (Artistic Director of Chicago Opera Association) to discuss the production of The Gambler. Prokofiev played through it and tried to anticipate Campanini’s reaction to it. Due to a description of Three Oranges the next morning Campnanini decided to produce Three Oranges. When he was traveling by train to Chicago he had a headache that spoilt his pleasure of the city. He was staying one of the best hotels The Congress. He used to look over Lake Michigan trough the window of his hotel room, but when he sees the lake it always covered by fog or mist. In middle part of the first movement violin and flute play the first theme in express. e cantabile in andante tempo followed by clarinet playing the same theme in dolce, meaning mild. On this misty background piano gently enter to the theme in dolce which is a rest after energetic triplets. It is evidence that andante part is reflection of mist and fog, proves with musical term and performance direction.
The third time in December 2, 1918, Prokofiev came in the middle of winter in Chicago from New York. In the fourth variation of second movement, possibly the most famous, is a haunting. Prokofiev reflected character of Chicago’s winter weather by slowly descending thirds started with interval of B-flat and D. This falling thirds reflection of a faintly other-worldly mood set by this section. Prokofiev fulfilled bone-chilling iciness with the descending thirds that is indicated in Italian musical term freddo, meaning cold. He enjoyed this time, with Leopold Stokowski (a conductor of Philadelphia orchestra) and spoke the success of Prokofiev’s concert in Carnegie hall. He offered to arrange a recital in Chicago and began to have a warm appreciation of friendly Chicago. Prokofiev used con brio (cheerful, spiritedly energy) mood in a descending passage, brioso (adjective of con brio) in ascending passage, and energico part with triplets in the first movement reflects his “enjoy time” in Chicago.
In October 31, 1920 worse awaited Prokofiev in Chicago. He expected Three Oranges production but Chicago Opera Association executives could not pay him what they contracted. Association sent telegram to him in France informing the cancelation. Prokofiev wrote: “I confess that this was an earth shattering revelation, so much so that as I read the letter everything went dark before my eyes” in his Diary. Prokofiev felt empty without the opera and he had only $3 in his pocket. In this way this experience made Prokofiev feel a disappointment in Chicago. It might be the reason that the Concerto written in aggressive mood which requires performers to be strong-willed, capability to finish it one start.
Prokofiev planned to introduce himself as a composer and performer with his Classical Symphony, First Piano Concerto, Scythian Suite, and first Four Sonatas to America (Chicago, New York.) But he came too soon: “Every newspaper has an article about me…at the same time this famous composer sits with three dollars in his pocket” The composer tempered disappointment with the realization that America itself might not be ready for him because America had never heard anything like Prokofiev’s music, and described his music as “Russian chaos,” “Carnival of cacophony,” “Bolshevism in art.” Also for his piano approach “Steel fingers, steel wrists, steel biceps, steel triceps- he is a tonal steel trust.” Prokofiev said the third movement “argument” between piano and orchestra, begins with main theme in bassoon and strings, interrupted by piano with conflicting theme. Middle section that is lyrical perhaps the agreement of the arguing parts, and then the disagreement begins again to the ending of the argument. This is the influence of critical disapproval from both Chicago and New York that show up with his composing the Concerto.
Prokofiev’s wife Lina Llubera in interview in 1962 recalled Prokofiev’s working method of the time he wrote the Third Piano Concert in 1921: “Prokofiev toiled at his music. His capacity for work was phenomenal. He would sit down to work in the morning with a clear head, as he said, either at the piano or at his writing desk. He usually composed his major works in the summer, in the mountains or at the seaside, away from the turmoil of city life. Always he sought places where the rhythm of work was not interrupted, where he could rest and take long walks.” Indeed the Concerto written in C major and it’s much more rhythmical piece that his other works. Prokofiev went to Paris for the production of The Buffoon offered by Sergey Diaghilev (choreographer). Finishing the production he went to the coast of Brittany for intensively working on the Concerto which is a lot inspired from Chicago. It’s doubtless that Prokofiev rests and walks nearby coast of Brittany while working on the Concerto.
In November 26, 1921 while he was practicing the concerto he wrote down some little melodic ideas. It is certain that he finished the Concerto in Chicago before the World Premier with Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Prokofiev idioms the Concerto is a wintry fairy-tale magic. It’s all together formidable work that requires nimble finger works. Martha Argerich’s the interpreter, with Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra on EMI, is most preferable performance on the Concerto. According to Prokofiev’s experience in Chicago relating to weather, feeling, and unpleasant memories influenced his composition of the Third Piano Concerto in C Major. Even though he had wrote the Concerto in a long time and on and off, Chicago’s reflection of character is certain from the texture of composition and musical terms used in it.