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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 (1935) [27:02]
Sonata for Two Violins in C major, Op. 56 (1932) [16:29]
Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 80 (1938/46) [29:26]
Janine Jansen (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Boris Brovtsyn (violin), Itamar Golan (piano)
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 21-23 June 2012 (concerto); Teldex Studio, Berlin, 11-14 June 2012 (sonatas)
DECCA 478 3546 [72:58]

Experience Classicsonline

From 1935 the Violin Concerto No. 2 tends to be overshadowed by its D major predecessor from 1916/17. Certainly a high quality score Prokofiev’s writing is highly melodic and more overtly romantic than in the earlier work. The opening Allegro moderato provides little in the way of virtuosic display although it contains much challenging writing for the soloist. Jansen playing her loaned 1727 ‘Barrere’ Stradivarius glides through the technical difficulties and makes her mark on the emotional content of the writing ensuring tension and restlessness. In the Andante assai Jansen’s extended cantilena is generally calm and introspective. With the soloist totally engaged, the Rondo, Finale feels upbeat and highly rhythmic. Jansen is a warm and persuasive soloist throughout complemented by responsive support from Jurowski and the LPO. For those looking for alternative accounts of the pair of Prokofiev Violin Concertos I have long admired the now ‘classic’ recording from soloist Kyung-Wha Chung and the LPO under André Previn. Recorded in 1975 at the Kingsway Hall, London, Chung plays passionately displaying a wonderful tone and control with Previn and the LPO highly sensitive partners on Decca 476 7226 (c/w Stravinsky Violin Concerto).A more recent recording of the pair of Prokofiev Violin Concertos is from soloist Arabella Steinbacher with the Russian National Orchestra (RNO) under Vasily Petrenko. From 2012 at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory in this memorable interpretation Steinbacher’s engaging and stylish approach is enhanced by alert support on Pentatone Classics (SACD) PTC 5186 395 (c/w Sonata for Solo Violin, Op.115).
The four movement Sonata for Two Violins doesn’t appear too often on recital programmes although it’s an accessible work that doesn’t follow the acerbic style of many of Prokofiev’s works from this period. In the short opening Andante cantabile Jansen and Brovtsyn ensure a yearning quality and the virtuosic Allegro is vibrant and full of anxiety. Marked Commodo (quasi allegretto) the lyricism of the third movement is heavily sorrowful as if grieving for a loved one. The conversation between Jansen and Brovtsyn in the Allegro con brio,Finale is heated and animated conveying a dark, unwelcoming character. Of the alternative recordings I have enjoyed the admirably played 2009 Prague account from Veronika Jarůšková and Eva Karová of the Pavel Haas Quartet on Supraphon SU3957-2 (c/w String Quartet No. 1, Op. 50; String Quartet No. 2, Op. 92).
One of my favourite chamber works the Violin Sonata No. 1 was composed in 1938/46. This dark and intense four movement score proves a reasonably popular choice with chamber musicians. A bleak, dark character imbues the opening Andante assai and at 5:12 (track 8) the “wind in the graveyard” effect sends a shiver down the spine. Playing of such vibrancy in the Allegro brusco from Jansen and Golan imparts a rebellious and rather sinuous quality. In the Andante Jansen’s muted violin exudes a surface tenderness but reveals an undercurrent of foreboding. Vigorously upbeat the Finale just gushes with an almost incessant torrent. At point 5:20 (track 11) once again the chilling “wind in the graveyard” effect takes over.My first choice account in the F minor Sonata isfrom Shlomo Mintz and Yefim Bronfman, a true meeting of minds recorded in 1987 at Cologne on Deutsche Grammophon 423 575-2 (c/w Violin Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 94a). I also highly revere the expressive account from Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich recorded in 1991 at Brussels on Deutsche Grammophon 431 803-2 (c/wViolin Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 94a; 5 Melodies for violin and piano, Op. 35bis). 

This fine Prokofiev release is gratifying played. Not including the Violin Concerto No. 1 has given this Decca release a distinct disadvantage over the competition. Recorded in 2012 at two venues the engineers have done a splendid job producing crystal clear and well balanced sound.
Michael Cookson  

Masterwork Index: Prokofiev Violin concerto 2

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