A coupling of the Sonatas from Boris Berman’s acclaimed recordings of Prokofiev’s complete piano music. Prokofiev the composer-performer frequently played his own compositions, and those who heard him were bowled-over by the sheer energy and vivid colours he produced.
Among those who took up Prokofiev’s music after hearing him play it were Horowitz, Gieseking and Rubenstein.
The First Sonata is a reworking of the second of six piano sonatas composed by Prokofiev in his late teens. The original composition dates from 1907 and in 1909 he dropped the second and third movements, revising the first. The Sonata adopts a rhetorical Russian late-romantic tone,in which general driving energy is the only trait pointing towards the mature Prokofiev.
The Second Sonata is a microcosm of Prokofiev’s mature sonata style, and its avoidance of technical and expressive excesses has made it a favourite choice for students.
Two of the juvenile piano sonatas were reworked as the third and Fourth Sonatas. The Third derives from ideas set down in 1907 and the reworking took place in 1917, shortly before prokofiev began to work on the ’Classical’ Symphony. Like his first mature sonata it is in a single loosely structured sonata-form movement. The restrained, even brooding, quality of much of the Fourth Sonata may be as a result of the suicide of one of his closest friends, the pianist Maximilian Schmidthof. It is essentially a more introverted work than any of the other sonatas.
The Fifth Sonata was composed just before his marriage to the Sanish singer Lina Llubera and jsut after the completion of the vocal score of The Fiery Sonata to carry out a revision in the last year of his life, clarifying and adjusting the balance of the structure, especially in the finale. The revision was given the opus number 135. Both versions are represented here.
The Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sonatas are often grouped together as the ’Wartime Sonatas’. The Sixth is the longest, most abrasive and painistically most spectacular of the sonatas, and has become one of the cornerstones of twentieth-century piano repertoire. Apart from its brilliance, the Sixth Sonata embodies a sense of conflict, and a depth of feeling far beyond anything in his earlier paino works.
The Seventh Sonata is a powerful and convincing synthesis of youthful exhibitionis and mature reflection on the most profound issues of the time. The dramatic sweep of the Eighth Sonata carries the listener through the two large outer movements. The central slow movment should be percieved as something more troubld than the courtly slow-motion minuet it purports to be.
The outline of the Ninth Sonata was sketched in mid-1945 at a composers’ rest home, where Prokofiev’s favouraite recreation was volleyball with the likes of Shostakovich, Kabalevsky and Khachaturian. It was not until the autumn of 1947 that it was completed, and, in a climate of increasing hostility towards the Arts, it was not performed until April 1951. It is a remarkably restrained work, never attaining the popularity of the three previous sonatas.
The Tenth Sonata was planned, but never realized. Only two pages survive based on a reworking of the E minor Sonatina, Op 54.