I realized recently that my appreciation for the music of Sergei Prokofiev has been completely on hold. What I mean by that is that I am a great fan of Prokofiev’s two violin concerti, and – of course – the Classical Symphony, but that I simply did not adequately explore his other great works. The breakthrough came when I recently attended a live concert at Stanford University and heard a performance by the Rusquartet of the Prokofiev String Quartet Number 2, Op. 92. I learned later that this is music from the year 1941, when Hitler invaded Russia, and Prokofiev was evacuated to a small town in the Caucuses mountains called Nalchik. I enjoyed this music a lot because of its native-sounding folk tunes, and so I have continued to study other Prokofiev works that I did not know earlier.
This CD is not new by any means. Yet it offered an opportunity to hear more of Prokofiev’s chamber music. Both string quartets are here, and also the wonderful sonata for two violins, which I had never heard before and found that I love it! This music is played by the fine Emerson String Quartet.
It is interesting how composers such as Schoenberg and Bartok have succeeded in becoming a lot more popular in the string quartet area, for some reason. Yet Prokofiev’s two string quartets have unfairly been neglected. And these two quartets are beautifully constructed, and they are thoughtful musical statements.
The Sonata for two violins is a lovely bonus on this disc. The astonishing thing about this piece is how Prokofiev manages, with only two musicians, to create such lovely textures and colors, and variety, especially in the opening Andante cantabile!
Below, from a concert at the Kleine Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam on the 9th of March 2010 are Liviu Prunaru and Valentina Svyatlovskaya, violins, performing Prokofiev’s Sonata for 2 violins:
First movement: Andante Cantabile:
And here is the second movement of the Sonata for 2 violins op. 56 –