Video Release: Mr Switch and LCO perform Gabriel Prokofiev’s Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra No. 1

For a limited time, London Chamber Orchestra’s live performance of Gabriel Prokofiev’s Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra No. 1, (performed by 4-times World DJ Champion Mr Switch), is available to watch on YouTube.

Filmed live at LCO concert, 30 November 2022’s Classically Liberating – this groundbreaking piece of music has the phenomenally skilled Mr Switch taking samples from the live orchestra and manipulating them in real-time. Each movement focuses on a particular DJing technique, such as playbacks, interruptions and reversals in the first movement, ‘mixing’ and ‘beat juggling’ in the second, ‘scratching’ in the third, and more – have you ever experienced a classical orchestra mixed with hip hop influence in this way?

This video is available to stream for free until Saturday 20 August – don’t miss your chance!

Notes by Jessica Duchen:

“Gabriel Prokofiev is the grandson of classical composer Sergei Prokofiev. His father, the artist Oleg Prokofiev, settled in London in 1971 after defecting from the USSR. His first musical ventures were in electronic and dance music, not least because his grandfather’s legacy was inevitably intimidating. Eventually, though, he embraced the greater creative freedom that classical genres offered. ‘For a while I was trying to juggle everything,’ he recounted, in an interview with the present writer a few years ago, ‘and when I should have been networking at record industry parties, instead I was in my studio writing a string quartet.’

When Will Dutta first approached him to suggest a concerto for DJ, Prokofiev was reluctant at first. Nevertheless, the musical possibilities of this soon began to intrigue him. The use of pre-recorded sounds in classical music goes back to Pierre Schaeffer’s Musique Concrète (a development dating from 1948) and Varese’s Poème électronique (1958), ‘Classical composers were manipulating recorded sounds long before Grandmaster Flash made his first scratch using a record,’ Prokofiev says. ‘However, once hip-hop culture discovered that a DJ can do so much more than just play records with a turntable, their DIY approach led to the evolution of a very exciting new instrument.’ 

The concerto incorporates idioms from hip-hop, bringing the worlds of DJ and orchestra closer together, exploring various DJing techniques in which the soloist takes sounds created by the orchestra and manipulates them electronically. Each movement focuses on a particular one, such as playbacks, interruptions and reversals in the first movement, ‘mixing’ and ‘beat juggling’ in the second, ‘scratching’ in the third, and more.

Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra No.1 was premiered at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, in 2011 by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, with DJ Switch as soloist. Its fifth movement was chosen by the BBC in 2015 for its Ten Pieces project, which aims to open up the world of classical music to children ages 7-14. “

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