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Piano Sonata No.2 in D Minor Op.14

Prokofiev: Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14]

The Second Sonata, written a mere three years later, is a far cry from such a tradition. Here already is the lean and muscular speech, the ‘shock of the new’, which Prokofiev saw as a brisk necessity if Russian music was not to founder in decadence. Like the First Sonata, the Second received its Moscow première from the composer, and even today it is easy to imagine the mixed response aroused by such self-conscious blague or naughtiness, an ability to go off like a crackerjack in so many different directions. The enforced marriage of skeletal, pared-down virtuosity (how different both on paper and in actual sound from the First Sonata’s full-blooded brilliance) and cool, insinuating lyricism are already highly authentic. And unlike Op. 1, Op. 14 has all the playful sardonic edge of what Prokofiev once defined as his ‘scherzoness’. The opening urgent ascent is rudely interrupted by a bitingly percussive figure and the haunting second subject is not only stylishly embellished but later makes a surprise appearance in the finale; a sort of footnote that points the way to similar procedures in Sonatas 6 and 8. The Scherzo is very much in what used to be called Prokofiev’s ‘scrubbing brush’ style, the principal theme ricocheting above and below a central staccato with increasing wit and aplomb. A central section momentarily calms such hyperactivity and hints at the self-absorbed langour and audacious use of disonance in the elaborate and extended Andante. Con tristezza at one point, the Andante’s Slavonic brooding is swept into oblivion in a notably frisky finale. Here, and in marked contrast to the Andante, textures are kept thin and glittering for maximum vivacity. There is also much playful syncopation and, in the final pages, an ingenious whirling together of the principal melodic elements.

©Bryce Morrison

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