Composer: Sergei Prokofiev (b. 1891 - d. 1953)
Performance date: 04/07/2017
Venue: Bantry Library
Composition Year: 1943
Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Adam Walker -
Alasdair Beatson - [piano]
left Russia soon after the Revolution and went to the USA, where he
tried to earn a living as a concert pianist as well as by composing
operas. He returned to Europe and the ferment of post-war Paris in
1922. Despite warnings from friends like Myaskovsky, he succumbed to
Soviet blandishments and moved with his family back to Moscow in
1935. Initially he was given unheard-of privileges such as regular
travel abroad but he became more and more demoralised by the
oppressive conditions under which he was forced to work and the need
to write banal works in praise of Stalin simply in order to survive.
Eventually Prokofiev, like Shostakovich, found new life in the arms
of a younger woman, walking out on his unfortunate wife and two young
only flute sonata was written during wartime exile in Perm. It was
premiered in December 1943 by the flautist Nikolai Charkovsky who
went on to hold the principal chair with the Russian State Symphony
(1952-68). Sviatoslav Richter was at the piano. The great violinist
David Oistrakh attended the premiere and was so struck by the piece
that he persuaded Prokofiev to re-write it for violin. Today, it
occupies a central place in both the flute and violin repertoires.
Sonata was written while Prokofiev was struggling with his massive
In contrast to the bleak First
which was begun in 1938 and clearly mourned the victims of Stalin’s
relentless purges, the Flute
one of Prokofiev’s sunniest compositions. There is no hint in
this music of the war raging in Russia at the time, none of the pain
that runs through the earlier sonata. The music is full of
Prokofiev’s characteristically pungent harmonies, but the Sonata is
generally serene, a vision of better times.
form, it follows the four-movement slow-fast-slow-fast sequence of
the baroque sonata. The opening Moderato,
in sonata form, begins with a beautifully poised melody on the flute,
a theme of classical purity. The flute also has the second
subject, a singing dotted melody. Prokofiev calls for an
exposition repeat, and the vigorous development leads to a quiet
close on a very high restatement of the opening idea.
was an Allegretto
in the original flute version but it was changed to a Presto
in the violin transcription. This revision has been almost
universally adopted by current-day publications of the work. The
movement. falls into the classical scherzo-and-trio pattern, with two
blazing themes in the scherzo and a wistful melody in the trio.
At the end of this movement the flute crescendos towards its highest
notes, seeming to leap into the air.
mood changes markedly at the Andante,
a continuous flow of melody on the luminous opening flute theme. The
flute part becomes more elaborate as the movement progresses, but the
quiet close returns to the mood of the beginning. The Allegro
finale is full of snap and drive, with the flute bounding between
octaves. At the centre of this movement, over steady piano
accompaniment, Prokofiev gives the flute one of those bittersweet
melodies so characteristic of his best music. Gradually the
music quickens, returning to the opening tempo, and with sweeping
scales and biting accents propels itself towards a final full-blooded
chord of D.
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