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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Sonata No.1 in F minor Op.80 (1938-46) [30.03]
Violin Sonata No.2 in D major Op.94bis (1943) [23.43]
Three Pieces from 'Romeo and Juliet' Op.64 (1936-36) [8.06]
Vadim Gluzman (violin)
Angela Yoffe (piano)
rec. Sendesaal, Bremen, Germany, 2012
Reviewed in surround
BIS BISSACD2032 [63.02]

Strictly speaking Prokofiev wrote just a single sonata for violin and piano, that in F minor. The other is an arrangement of the Flute Sonata Op.94. The Violin Sonata proper was commenced before the war and finished after, getting its first performance in 1946. David Oistrakh tells how he and fellow composer Miaskovsky visited Prokofiev at the composer's request. "You must come," said Prokofiev. Apparently he played through the entire piece at the piano without a pause. The stunned Miaskovsky declared it a masterpiece, remarking, "My dear fellow, you don't realise what you have written!" A little later when Oistrakh was preparing the first performance with pianist Lev Oborin, Prokofiev was free with his advice and his comments, leading the musicians to realise just how deeply significant it was to the composer. Indeed, listening to Gluzman and Yoffe on this disc the work comes over as dark and powerful after the manner of the Symphony No.6 which Prokofiev finished around a year later. Miaskovsky was not wrong, this big four-movement sonata is indeed a masterpiece and its presence on this disc in such a strong performance makes this SACD an important issue.

Listening to the other sonata it is hard to imagine how a flute can possibly endow the music with anything like the strength of Gluzman's violin. Op.94bis was a result too of Oistrakh's urging, for when he heard it he felt that, "this beautiful piece of music ought to live a fuller and richer life on the concert stage." He comments on the speed with which Prokofiev adapted the piece using Oistrakh as an adviser in matters of technique. It is a more obviously lyrical work but by no means lacking in strength and vitality. No less a figure than Shostakovich declared the sonata to be "a perfectly magnificent work."

The arrangement of three pieces from Romeo and Juliet works extremely well as a filler for this lovely disc. I am quite sure they have been used as encores by these soloists during recital tours. This is the second disc of Vadim Gluzman playing Prokofiev I have had the pleasure of reviewing for MWI, the first being of the concertos. He makes the most splendid meaty sound on a 1690 Stradivarius and the engineers have served him and his regular partner Angela Yoffe exceedingly well. The notes, by Andrew Huth (in English, French and German), are of course excellent, as always with BIS, I cannot recommend this disc more highly. Those who know Prokofiev only through his orchestral and theatre music will pleased to find there is much more to be enjoyed in his instrumental output.

Dave Billinge
Previous review: Dominy Clements (Recording of the Month)



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