Prokofiev Piano Sonatas
26 year-old Denis Kozhukhin arrives on the recording scene fully-fledged, like Athena springing from the head of Zeus. Intellect is central: I’ve never heard so much revelatory detail in Prokofiev’s triptych of dark and painful masterpieces. Kozhukhin has a way of bringing out the detail of the inner parts, or even a usually inconsequential-seeming bass line, that highlights the drama instead of distracting from it; there’s so much internal play in the droll march-scherzo of the Sixth Sonata, so much genius revealed about the way Prokofiev elaborates or dislocates the minuet theme at the heart of the Eighth. The touch is one that the composer-pianist would probably applaud: clear rather than dry, recorded with superb presence and ringing treble, bringing in the sustaining pedal with mesmerising care only to nuance the more pensive themes.
Sometimes the head rules the heart too much; when Prokofiev withdraws into private grief, Kozhukhin often only goes so far to meet him. The slow movements lack introspection, the dynamics are often just that bit too loud; the climaxes never quite tear at the soul. The finales of the Sixth and Seventh lack the ideal demonic spring. Yet somehow Kozhukhin does pull all the strands together in the great parade of the Eighth’s concluding vivace, a stunning tour de force at the end of an always thought-provoking trilogy.