Cello Sonata in C major Op.119

Composer: Sergei Prokofiev (b. 1891 - d. 1953)
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Composer: Sergei Prokofiev (b. 1891 - d. 1953)

Performance date: 30/06/2013

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1949

Duration: 00:26:03

Recording Engineer: Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: vc, pf

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Artists: Leonard Elschenbroich - [cello]
Alexei Grynyuk - [piano]

The new
opera of Prokofiev shows serious defects from the ideological and artistic
point of view. Prokofiev’s music is in direct contradiction to the text and the
dramatic action. The Soviet spectator is outraged to see the pilot, a hero of
the war, depicted as a gross marionette. Almost the entire opera is constructed
on an unmelodious musical declamation and the few songs introduced by the
author cannot save the situation.
Tikhon Khrennikov, Central Committee denunciation of
Prokofiev 21 December 1948.


This was the kind of deadly nonsense that composers
like Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Myaskovsky would have had to deal with along
with attending the suffocatingly boring but equally deadly meetings of the
Central Committee where lesser composers and stupid musical bureaucrats would fall
over themselves to denounce their music in public. The end result of these
so-called Zhdanov
purges was that the three composers – and many others – were stripped of their
teaching posts and had performances of their works banned. Prokofiev ultimately
regained favour through writing a Soviet-style cantata, On Guard for Peace and a children’s Suite, Winter Bonfire. In the meantime he was persuaded by Slava
Rostropovich to write him a Cello Sonata.


Rostropovich is said to have premiered 117 new works. He
had works written for him not only by Prokofiev and Shostakovich, but also by
other leading composers such as Schnittke, Gubaidulina, Khachaturian,
Penderecki, Lutoslawski, Britten, Dutilleux, Messiaen, Bernstein and Piazzolla.
He was barely twenty when he first met Prokofiev after he performed his
neglected Cello Concerto. The composer was inspired to write his Cello Sonata
after he heard Rostropovich play Myaskovsky’s second Cello Sonata. Rostropovich
then recruited Sviatoslav Richter to be his pianist, a dream team it would be
hard to match.


his memoirs Richter notes We gave the
first performance of Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata. Before playing it in concert, we
had to perform it at the Composer’s Union,
where these gentlemen decided the fate of all new works. During this period
more than any other, they needed to work out whether Prokofiev had produced a
new masterpiece or, conversely, a piece that was ‘hostile to the spirit of the
people.’ Three monthes later, we had to play it again at a plenary session of
all the composers who sat on the Radio Committee, and it wasn’t until the
following year that we were able to perform it in public, in the Small Hall of
the Moscow Conservatory on March 1, 1950.


this time, four years before his death, far from well and battered by the
strain of surviving under Soviet conditions, Prokofiev’s music no longer had
that acerbic provocative edge, instead his lyricism is here coupled with a warm
sense of humour, unrivalled melodic invention and brilliant virtuosity. The
endless succession of colourful new melodies can seem like a glorious
fairy-tale with gallant dance tunes, the occasional glimpse of darkness,
several love-songs and much witty repartee.