Prokofiev composed his piano concertos for himself (except for No. 4 for the left hand), and he chiefly earned international acclaim as a pianist performing them. ‘The pianist Prokofiev is the New Man of the [20th] century,’ Harold C. Schonberg wrote. Another critic said his piano-playing was a little hard and dry, but he played with astounding confidence and freedom. The piano did not sing or vibrate, but spoke the chilly and strict voice of a percussion instrument.
Prokofiev composed the Piano Concerto No. 5 in 1932. It was premi?red in Berlin in October that year, under the baton of Wilhelm Furtwängler, the composer playing solo piano. ‘I hadn’t intended the piano concerto to be too difficult and originally wanted to call it “Music for piano and orchestra”, but in the event it turned out overly complicated, like most of my works in this period.’ The end result was indeed completely different compared to what Prokofiev had initially intended: a 30-minute, far from easy, five-movement composition. The first and last fast movements are in a brilliant toccata style, the second movement (Moderato ben accentuato) is a grotesque march. The real slow movement is the fourth, a lyrical Larghetto, with a passionate-pathetic middle section. The focal point of the work is the third, shorter Toccata that takes its music from the first movement.