Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14
Piano Sonata No. 6 in A major ("War Sonata 1"), Op. 82
Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major ("War Sonata 3"), Op. 84
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The Russian-British pianist Alexander Melnikov has recorded Shostakovich and a variety of Romantic chamber music with great success. But nothing quite prepares the listener for the controlled power in these performances of three Prokofiev piano sonatas. The "Piano Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 82," and "Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Op. 84," are among the most modernist works Prokofiev ever wrote. They appeared during World War II and are often thought, with some justification, to reflect that environment. And Prokofiev himself merely said blandly of the mighty "Sonata No. 8" that it had a predominantly lyrical character. This is true enough of the themes themselves, but each one almost immediately becomes ensnared in technical complications that would be dizzying if they did not seem to be so controlled by an iron logic. And it is this structure, rather than shadows of war (which Shostakovich did better anyway, and which are made problematical by the fact that Prokofiev began writing both the "Piano Sonata No. 6" and "Piano Sonata No. 8" before the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany), that Melnikov captures so well. Sample one of the Vivace finales, perhaps that of the "Piano Sonata No. 6" to hear the clean power of Melnikov's playing here, which indeed does carry a sense of threat. Added attractions include the exuberant "Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14," a student work, and superb Teldex Studio sound from Harmonia Mundi. A superior Prokofiev piano album.
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