THE CELEBRATED Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953) endured a complex and fraught relationship with his homeland. Abroad during the Bolshevik triumph, Prokofiev came back during the 1930s, at the height of the Stalin regime. The government involved itself excessively in the creative output of its prominent artists. Realism was mandated; formalist tendencies condemned. Prokofiev struggled within these confines, tackling nationalist projects, such as his score for Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky and his opera version of Tolstoy's War and Peace. In one of history's ironies, Prokofiev died on the same day as Stalin.
Clearly, there is a great deal of musical, political and historical material to explore for Stanford Lively Arts' Prokofiev Project, Nov. 12–15. The four days of talks and concerts include a program of discussion, period recordings, film and piano music on Thursday at 7:30pm at Tresidder Memorial Union on campus; this event is free. On Friday, at 8pm at Dinkelspiel Auditorium, the focus will be on Prokofiev's piano music, with performances of his Piano Sonata no. 7, a two-piano arrangement of Cinderella and other works. Saturday's concert at Dinkelspiel (8pm) presents selections from War and Peace and Romeo and Juliet, played by the Stanford Symphony Orchestra; most intriguingly, the Romeo and Juliet features special life-size puppets made by Robin Walsh. The event closes Sunday at 2:30pm with a symphonic suite version of Romeo and Juliet designed for family audiences, again with the puppets. For info, call 650.725.ARTS.
On Saturday, the Steinway Society of the Bay Area welcomes the Naughton twins—Christina and Micelle—to San Jose for a night of duo piano works by Mozart, Ravel and others. The Naughtons should have no trouble staying in sync—they are not just twins, but identical twins. Saturday (Nov. 14) at 7:30pm; Le Petit Trianon, 72 N. Fifth St., San Jose; $30–$45; 408.286.2620, ext. 23.
For its opening chamber concert of the season, the Palo Alto Philharmonic Association, too, looks to Mozart, namely the composer's Piano Quartet no. 1. Also scheduled are Copland's stirring Appalachian Spring (done in the original orchestration, for 13 instruments) and Brahms' String Quintet no. 1. Saturday (Nov. 14) at 8pm; Palo Alto Arts Center Auditorium, 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto; $8–$18; www.paphil.org.
Also in Palo Alto, the Sinfonia of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra gets its season started with a program of Handel, Dohnanyi, Vitali and Arensky. Benjamin Simon conducts. Sunday (Nov. 15) at 3pm; Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto; $5/$10; 650.856.3848.
For "Music Under the Redwoods," the Composers Performance Ensemble presents a variety of new works by its members. Saturday (Nov. 14) at 8pm; Valley Presbyterian Church, 945 Portola Road, Portola Valley; $10/$15; 408.293.2765.
Leo Eylar leads the California Youth Symphony Orchestra in selections by Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and Gershwin. The featured artist is pianist Alex Chien, who recently won the group's Young Artist Competition. Sunday (Nov. 15) at 2:30pm; Flint Center, 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino; call for ticket information; 650.325.6666.
The South Bay Philharmonic, which calls itself an "open-source symphony" that solicits a wide range of musicians at different skill levels and is an offshoot of the new-gone Hewlett-Packard Symphony Orchestra, performs twice this weekend, with Dvorák's Symphony no. 8 and selections from The Wand of Youth by Elgar. Friday (Nov. 13) at 7:30pm; Foothill Presbyterian Church, 5301 McKee Road, San Jose; and Saturday (Nov. 14) at 7:30pm; First United Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto; see www.southbayphilharmonic.org for details.
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