Prokofiev: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1: Nos 1-5
Peter Donohoe has always been equal to the most titanic challenges in Prokofiev’s later, so-called ‘war’ sonatas – Nos 6, 7 and 8 – which he recorded for EMI. Nothing much has changed, but his approach here only suits the single-movement First Sonata – four-square in Rachmaninov style – and the occasional developmental blasts in its successors. Given a certain lack of atmospheric fine-tuning, the Second Sonata’s opening non legato sounds simply dry; there are no distant songs in dreamier or diatonic second subjects. Dolce and scherzando are absent from Donohoe’s vocabulary; anything approaching pianissimo seems out of the question.
In Sonata No. 4’s opening Allegro, the qualifying molto sostenuto is completely dropped, and Donohoe’s tempo is surely the fastest on record for this movement. In the central Andante assai, he deals earthily with the serpentine monster rising from the depths, but there’s no sensitivity to the lovely tune which descends to meet it. The finale lacks pyrotechnic élan, though few pianists are as note-perfect in the crazy coda.
Donohoe plays the original, 1923 version of the Fifth Sonata: he’s impressive in sudden dissonant explosions, but not discriminating enough with Prokofiev’s skewed neo-classicism. Piano and recorded sound is adequate, no more.