Symphony No. 2. in D minor ’Iron and Steel’, Op. 40

Composed in Paris in 1924/25, the Symphony No. 2 is one of Prokofiev’s least known and undeservedly forgotten works. The composer’s first attempt in the symphonic genre had resulted in a masterpiece. Widely known as the ‘Classical Symphony,’ it is representative of the so-called ‘Neo-Classical’ trend of twentieth-century music. Prokofiev was out to try something completely different in the Symphony No. 2 which consists of just two movements. He said he had wanted to write a work ‘of iron and steel’, that is, he regarded the most modern contemporary music as his model. The first movement in particular fits this description, being as it is one of the composer’s movements with the most dissonances, and closest approaching Igor Stravinsky’s revolutionary new formal idiom. Like gigantic machinery, the dense orchestral fabric is in perpetual motion, and the steeliness is enhanced by the almost permanent presence of the piano. The second movement is in variation form where the variations follow one another like scenes in a ballet, contrasting in tempo and form. The fast, rhythmic-motoric third movement in particular isat odds with the fourth, a mellow, pastel landscape. The densely-woven, relentless character of the opening movement returns in the last variation, and when the aggressive sturdiness of the music become all but unbearable, the lyrical theme returns and the symphony ends in pianissimo.