Sonata No.1 in F minor for violin and piano Op.80

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

Performance date: 26/06/2010

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1946

Duration: 00:29:47

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: pf

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Artists: Alexei Grynyuk - [piano]
Nicola Benedetti - [violin]

Sonata No.1 in F minor for violin and piano Op.80

Prokofiev established himself as enfant
in the second decade of the last century. His first two
piano concertos caused a furore, the second reputedly left listeners
frozen with fright, hair standing on end. The critics had a
field day, scarcely able to find strong enough terms of condemnation.
After the Revolution he lived mainly in the USA, then Paris, and his
style gradually settled down. The last seventeen years of his life he
spent in the USSR, initially stimulated but later drastically
restricted by Stalin’s cultural policies. Throughout his life he
wrote music for the stage and his compositions always have a sharp
sense of drama, even after he had stopped trying to shock his
audience into paralysis.

The F minor Sonata was begun in 1938,
after his return to Russia, but it took him eight years to finish it.
Although known as the First Sonata it was actually the second to be
finished. The first movement has the sombre atmosphere of a funeral
march and Prokofiev himself compared a famous passage to the wind
in a graveyard
, a passage that returns to haunt us at the end of
the last movement. Prokofiev is said to have told his wife that the
work was directly inspired by Handel’s D major Sonata, which
certainly explains the typical baroque four-movement plan of
slow-fast-slow-fast. At Prokofiev’s funeral, ironically on the same
day as Stalin’s, David Oistrakh played the two Andantes from this
Sonata, the wind in the graveyard now sounding over the composer’s

The second movement unleashes demons
with all the ferocity of a Shostakovich; jagged, coruscating chords
drive the music forward with unrelenting savagery, reflecting the
terrible times in which they lived. Despite several attempts to
soften the impact, the power of this music leaves an indelible
impression of anger and horror that the composer is quite unable to
mitigate. The second Andante begins gently before developing an
intensely felt lyricism, but towards the end the mood darkens and the
music seems to disintegrate in front of us.

The finale finally lifts us out of the
darkness into something approaching the excitement generated by
Prokofiev’s old role as rule-breaker and innovator. The rhythmic
scheme begins to complicate and the tempo increases, although the
episodes make an attempt to slow down the hectic dance. Once again
the end is signalled by the pace slackening and we meet again the
funeral tread and the wind in the graveyard from the first movement,
returning unassuaged until we reach a kind of consolation in the
final bars.