Violin sonata № 1 in F minor, Op. 80
Quintet in G minor, Op. 39
Piano Sonata № 2 in D minor, Op. 14
Sonata for Violin and Piano No 1 (1946) was the composer’s first work in its genre settled in the global repertoire. Prokofiev began writing it in 1938 under the impression of Handel’s music, which he had heard during his last visit to Paris. The work was not completed until eight years later. The events of those years — the World War, domestic ideological pressure, family problems, and rapidly declining health — undoubtedly influenced the imagery of the music. The composer compared ghostly violin passages in the first and last movements with ‘the wind passing through a graveyard’, and the aggressive music of the scherzo was demanded to be played ‘in such a way that people should jump in their seat, and people will say “Is he out of his mind?”’
Quintet Op. 39 (1924) is rarely performed because of the unusual ensemble: oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, and double bass. It is probably the first work ever written for such a line-up. Prokofiev wrote the Quintet on commission from a travelling ballet troupe for a circus pantomime with a guignol plot: the ballerina — half-human, half-puppet — is killed by the explosion of a cracker, and the other characters drag the rag soul out of her and tear it into handkerchiefs. The Quintet is noticeably influenced by Stravinsky, the young French composers from Les Six, the Second Viennese School and even jazz.
The evening will end with the Piano Sonata No. 2 (1912). Here, Prokofiev’s personal style already reveals itself to the full. This is a very contemporary music, which was also the reason why the shocked viewers decided right after the premiere it was “cacophonic” and “grossly anti-musical”. The traditional form here is boldly hacked by figurative contrasts and the emotional deployment is chopped into pieces, and turned into a theatre of carnival masks, almost into a collage. This music is distancing itself, instead of involving. Its lyrical hero is not Pierrot, but Harlequin. However, behind the rebellious façade, it is easy to discern a genuine, deep romantic, who above all values his individuality and is capable of serious lyrics, without a jester’s hidden agenda.