Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Opus 16 (1913) Prokofiev composed his Second Piano Concerto during the winter of 1912-1913 and dedicated the work to the memory of his dear friend, Max Schmidthof, who committed suicide in April of 1913. Prokofiev was the soloist in the Concerto’s September 5, 1913 premiere, which took place in Pavlovsk, a suburb of St. Petersburg. 1913 was also the year in which Igor Stravinsky’s revolutionary ballet, The Rite of Spring, stunned the music world, inspiring riots at its Paris premiere. Perhaps the reaction to the first performance of Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto was not quite as violent as that which occurred inParis on May 29, 1913, but the Pavlovsk concert still remains one of the more infamous scandals in music history.
Prokofiev completed his Fifth (and last) Piano Concerto in 1932. Prokofiev was again the soloist in the Concerto’s premiere, which took place in Berlin on October 31, 1932. The legendary German conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler, led the Berlin Philharmonic. Prokofiev arrived in Berlin immediately before the Concerto’s premiere. Furtwängler (an accomplished composer in his own right) informed Prokofiev: “I have left one whole rehearsal for you. This is, of course, too little for such a difficult score, but each of us will try to work as hard as possible.” Despite the abbreviated rehearsal time, the premiere of the Fifth Piano Concerto was a success. Prokofiev originally planned to title the work “Music for Piano and Orchestra,” but later decided upon the traditional “Fifth Piano Concerto.” Prokofiev composed the Concerto during a period when, by his own admission, he was seeking a “new simplicity” in his music.