Prokofieff’s first ballet for Diaghilev, Ala and Lolly, was meant to be a stirring portrayal of ancient man in a mythic prehistoric Russia, rather in the manner of The Rite of Spring. When Diaghilev cancelled the project, Prokofieff reshaped the material into this highly imposing and brilliantly effective four-movement suite, one of his most lavish orchestral scores.
Despite the Stravinskian story-line and the unusually expansive instrumental line-up, this popular music is unmistakably the young Prokofieff. It abounds in soaring melodies, flowing and pulsing streams of harmony, and ends with a grandiose Hollywood ‘sunrise’. Later, even this fearless composer came to think the technicolor ending rather over the top. But who cares? This is music guaranteed to have the audience on their feet and cheering as the last chord dies away.
Note by Gerard McBurney