SERGEY PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Visions Fugitives, Op. 22 (1915-1917)
(Arranged for string orchestra by Rudolf Barshai)

Years ago I read a cute account of one's visit to a concert hall which, in essence, went like this: "On the program there was Bruckner's Symphony No. xx. Musicians gathered on stage and the light was dimmed, but still strong enough to glance through the program booklet, which I did. Then, some time later, the majestic melody began unfolding, filling the hall and capturing everybody's attention. It was the main theme of the first movement, and it was gorgeous. By that time the poor violins had been playing tremolo non stop for at least 15 minutes".

Bruckner's symphonies were aptly called "Cathedrals of sound", and to hold the structure, one indeed needed a foundation of proportional might. One of the major challenges to the performers of this music is to hold this structure as a whole, without losing sight of its dimension. In day-to-day language, the composition should not feel too long.

The challenge of writing and performing miniatures is directly the opposite in nature, as the limited time should not feel insufficient to define the work's emotional characteristics. Prokofiev succeeded magnificently, writing Visions Fugitives as a piano cycle of 20 miniatures. The average length of each is about one minute, and some as short as 20 seconds. Barschai transcribed 15 of them for string orchestra. They are great fun to perform and, hopefully, to hear.