Prokofiev, my old friend…

After spending the last year or so performing and recording the Prokofiev Flute Sonata with Linda Chatterton, I am reminded how much I “get” this composer. I spent a lot of my time in school, actually in each degree, playing Prokofiev. Six of the nine sonatas, one of the concertos, the flute/violin sonata, the cello sonata, and songs all have enterted my repertoire over those years. Obviously heaps of 20th and 21st century repertoire have been the hallmark of my career, but time and time again I turn to Sergei.

I am curious if the sarcastic and humorous (although veiled) qualities of his music resonate with me…hmmmm…my friends may heartily agree with that notion! But I think its more than that. Given that he was a gifted performer himself, I think most pianists would agree that his writing fits the hand very well. However, many would argue it can be taxing to perform with its over abundance of chords and agressive elements in many of the works. It seems to be a plus for me.

The 2nd Piano Sonata was my first big piece by this composer and it really unlocked for me a new sound world, a new rhythmic interest, and ultimately a new style of playing. His music stretched my understanding of harmony and melody in such a way that his music may have been the start of my interest in exploring new and alternative sounds. It is hard to pinpoint a time and place when this all began but in looking back-I have a strong hunch I am right.

This season I am returning to an old and familiar friend, the 7th Sonata. This warhorse (literally) has always engaged me when I turn back to it. But for me, the middle movement grips me the most. I know, I know that last movement is the part everyone loves and it is great for its technical display. But the true heart of this composer and his views of life through WWII and Stalin’s reign manifest beauifully in this lyrical, second movement. It’s got all the Romantic quailties of Schumann, with mood shifts and its melodies layered up and divided between the hands. But it is still quintessenitally Russian. The last minute or so of the piece sums it up for me. It is bleak, yet charming; haunting yet tender.

I am enjoying myself this summer preparing this work again. And just like with many friends you do not see on a regular basis, we still just pick up right where we left off.

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