Prokofiev: Sonatinas, Op. 54 Nos. 1 and 2
At first hearing, the two sonatinas Op. 54 are minor, even inconsequential, works by
Prokofievs 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
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
composers haunted, lonely personality.