STRING QUARTET NO. 2, OPUS 92
I. Allegro sostenuto
Sergei Prokofiev was born in eastern Ukraine in 1891. A musical prodigy, he entered St. Petersburg Conservatory at 13, where he studied orchestration with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Soon after the October Revolution in 1917, Prokofiev left the Soviet Union and spent the next eighteen years living and touring abroad in Europe and America. However, he longed for his home and returned to the Soviet Union for good in 1936 after a strict ideological clampdown on the arts from which he mistakenly assumed he was immune due to his fame.
Like his rival, Dmitri Shostakovich, Prokofiev was publicly condemned in 1948 by the Minister of Culture on the charges of “formalism.” He never recovered from the humiliation and financial repercussions of the attack and passed away just a few years later on the same day as Stalin: March 5,1953. There were no flowers at his sparsely attended funeral because there were none left following “The Great Leader’s” funeral.
Working primarily with large-scale ensembles, Prokofiev is best known for his suite “Peter and the Wolf,” and his output included symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, and film scores. He did not write his first string quartet until 1931. His second quartet, written in 10 years later, in just over one month, is based on the folk music of the Kabardino-Balkar region of the northern Caucasus, where he was sent by the Soviet authorities to escape the invading Nazi armies. Kabardian and Tatar dances and folk songs provide the basis for the work, and the players mimic indigenous instruments like the garmoshka (folk accordion).
Program notes by Gage Cogswell