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Sonatina in E Minor Op.54 No.1

Prokofiev: Sonatinas, Op. 54 Nos. 1 and 2

At first hearing, the two sonatinas Op. 54 are minor, even inconsequential, works by Prokofiev’s standards, especially when one considers that they were composed between the fiery and unusual piano concertos, No. 4, for the left hand Op. 53 and No. 5, Op. 55. As these sonatinas become more familiar, however, their richness and expressive power becomes remarkably apparent. They are painfully introverted pieces, looking back to the eery sense of isolation that Prokofiev evoked in his Visions Fugitives, the same intensely private feelings that were clearly felt by the composer in his own social and professional life.

Composed between 1930 and 1931, the sonatinas are exercises in restraint occasionally bordering on resignation. Of the three Allegro movements from Op. 54, each is qualified: Allegro moderato in Op. 54 No. 1; Allegro sostenuto and Allegro, ma non troppo for the outer movements of Op. 54, No. 2. Although each of the movements contains a moderate amount of development, the final impression is always static, so that the sonatinas appear as short suites each made up of three frozen tableaux.

What exactly Prokofiev was getting at when he composed these extraordinary pieces no one will ever really know, but on close acquaintance the precise engineering of negative expression, in both of these sonatinas, leads us somewhere towards an understanding of the composer’s haunted, lonely personality.

İAlexander Waugh


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