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Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Old Grandmother’s Tales Op. 31 [9:98]
Six Pieces Op 52 [30:02]
Childhood Manuscripts:
Tarantella in D minor [2:03]
Pesenki Series 2 No. 7 [4:34]
Pesenki Series 3 (excerpts) [8:08]
Pesenki Series 4 (excerpts) [9:35]
Pesenki Series 5 (excerpts) [13:00]
Examination Fugue in D [1:44]
Scherzo in D [1:37]
Alexandre Dossin (piano)
rec. 2016, Moon Mountain Studios, Eugene, USA
NAXOS 8.573435 [79:53]

As both pianist and composer Sergey Prokofiev was something of a child prodigy, so much so that Reinhold Glière was employed as the youngster’s live-in musical tutor. This arrangement seems to have worked well for Prokofiev, with Glière’s lessons not only building on what the boy already knew but also setting him new and complicated challenges which stretched the young Prokofiev.

The earliest piece on this disc is the Tarantella in D minor of 1901, a charming work that belies the composers tender age, there is a Spanish feel to the music and it depicts the dance rhythms well.

Prokofiev composed five books of Pesenki or Little Songs before he was sixteen and the 15 excerpts presented here, the earliest dating from 1903 when he was only twelve, display well Prokofiev’s mastery of the piano even at this early age. The pieces are hardly masterpieces, but they do show a mastery of the styles and musical language that he had been introduced to by Glière, whether the March of Series 3, the Minuet from Series 4 or the charming Waltz from Series 5, they all show a depth of knowledge and understanding.

The final two works from his early period are the Examination Fugue in D of 1908, which shows a complete understanding of the idiom, and the Scherzo in D, date unknown, which when presented to Myaskovsky, we are told, were received favourably, the older composer declaring that “I never suspected what a little viper we had nursing in our bosom.”

The disc actually opens with the Old Grandmother’s Tales, a series of four pieces dating from 1918, and showing a great advancement in Prokofiev’s musical technique. They are still, however, set in an older - one could say more conservative - idiom, an advancement on the early student pieces but still not the style that the composer would become famous for.

The most substantial work on this disc is the series of pieces that the composer adapted from earlier works. The Six Pieces Op 52 present music taken from The Prodigal Son, Songs Without Words Op. 35, the String Quartet No. 1 and the Sinfonietta. These are, for me, the real interest on this disc; this is the more mature composer, music that although harking back to an earlier period, clearly shows Prokofiev in his prime.

Alexandre Dossin rises to every challenge posed by this music, all too often juvenile music can be glossed over, but not here as Dossin plays it with the same respect that he gives to the later works. The sound is good as are the booklet notes, making this a valuable addition to any Prokofiev collection.

Stuart Sillitoe



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