For my concert of choice I will be attending the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra at NJPAC on December third. Conductor, Xian Zhang along with Stephen Hough on the piano and an orchestra will be performing classical pieces of the Romantic period by Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. Rachmaninoff’s pieces being performed are Vocalise, and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganni. The third and final piece being played will be Symphony No.6 by Prokofiev. Both composers have elements within their pieces that differentiate them from the norms of musical composition and inspiration from sources that change how the music should be interpreted.
From my research on Rachmaninoff I take that he was committed and determined to express perfection in his pieces. His drive is admirable as is shown with his experience as a “pianist, composer and conductor.” Rachmaninoff’s vocalise was inspired and written for poets of the Romantic era. Interestingly his piece is not written over the top but in a simple manner that captures lyricism and his emotional interpretation. His composition pieces based on other works is interesting and knowing the source of his work makes me wonder how and why he interpreted a specific piece. I wonder from reading this if he is attempting to deliver a message that builds on the original poets or was he simply delivering what he believed they were attempting to express in a musical instrumental manner. Rachmaninoff is further known for his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganni, which is 3 movements performed as a continuous piece. The piece is said to sum up his lifelong fascination with chants by including 3 different chants in each movement. Knowing his piece is variations will affect how closely I listen for how his variations differ and for the chants and how they affect the overall piece for me as the listener.
Prokofiev’s “Symphony No.6”is interesting as it made its premiere post World War II but was composed during the war. Times of war and times post-war are different because while one is an aggressive, fearful state of mind I would say post-war state of mind is grounded in mourning loss, celebrating victory or dealing with defeat. The state of minds can differ drastically; however, the style with which Prokofiev’s symphony was written differs from war themes in certain aspects. Rachmaninoff is known for being eager, playful and imaginative. I believe we see some of the playfulness in his choice not to make the piece darker. Prokofiev is said to have finished the piece in during his stay in a hospital, working while doctors were away. Victor Seroff highlights Prokofiev’s reluctance to stop working, “but how could he stop thinking? he asked-and his thoughts were always on music.” A composer who writes themes “even while chatting with friends” tells me they have a lot to get out of their mind, to share with the world. Such eagerness will effect how I listen because I wonder if his style is rapid and loose or tight and well composed to deliver messages.
 Geoffrey Norris. “Rachmaninoff, Serge.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed November 28, 2017, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/50146.
 Seroff, Victor I. Sergei Prokofiev: a Soviet tragedy; the case of Sergei Prokofiev, his life and work, his critics, and his executioners. New York: Taplinger Publ. Comp., 1979.