WORKS: Violin Sonata in F minor; Violin Sonata in D; Five Melodies
PERFORMER: Joshua Bell (violin)Olli Mustonen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 440 926-2 DDD
Prokofiev’s chamber music is stimulating, hugely varied, and impregnated with his distinctive brand of melody. Take the two Violin Sonatas – the First intensely dramatic, by turns rhetorical and contemplative, epic in its content; the Second altogether cosier, a reworking of a slightly earlier Sonata for the flute. Bell and Mustonen are well attuned to this music, their interpretations thoughtful and persuasive.
The two quartets have much the same relationship as the Violin Sonatas. The first is a grittier work, its opening Allegro launched with a typically perky, angular theme; the Second folk-orientated and more approachable, though the folk element is assimilated unselfconsciously into Prokofiev’s personal musical language. Again there is the emphasis on melody and Classical form, and the San Francisco-based Aurora Quartet gives well-moulded performances.
The two accounts of the Cello Sonata make an interesting comparison. Pereira and Moore wring every last drop of emotion out of Prokofiev’s opening Andante, at a tempo which would probably work in the concert hall but is rather a drag on record. Grebanier and Guggenheim are quicker and more flowing and perform admirably. But Pereira and Moore have the better sound, and their balance is impeccable, each slipping unobtrusively into the background when the other has a more important phrase. The Carter work emphasises the differences between the cello and the piano rather than their capacity to coexist. Pereira and Moore recreate this rare masterpiece in all its varied colours. Wadham Sutton