Prokofiev: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Sonata for Solo Violin; Five Melodies

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Sonata for Solo Violin; Five Melodies
PERFORMER: Andrey Bielov (violin), Igor Tchetuev (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555904
The reading of the popular Second Sonata gets a clear five stars – no qualifications. It’s one of those performances in which every detail seems to have been appraised with love and understanding, but in which the grasp of the whole is always greater than the understanding of the parts.

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Nothing else here is on quite that level, though. These two young Ukrainian musicians approach the other works with care. There’s a lot of warmth, refinement and intelligence in the Five Melodies – they’re certainly not just thrown off as padding for the two big sonatas – and Bielov’s performance of the Sonata for Solo Violin has strength and character. But while Bielov and Tchetuev’s interpretation of the Second Sonata seems to fit the music like an exquisitely tailored glove at every stage, in the other works the feeling is less consistent – especially in the sombre, powerful First Sonata. Technically the playing is excellent, and almost from the start you can sense a concern to bleed as much meaning from each idea as possible. But to my ears this is interpretation applied to the notes rather than discovered from within them. There are stunning moments – the grinding mechanical crescendo two minutes into the second movement is scalp-tingling stuff. But in this case there isn’t anything like the same wholeness of vision as in No. 2. While Shlomo Mintz and Yefim Bronfman on DG aren’t always as sensationally effective, they get to the troubled heart of this music very quickly, and stay with it. Stephen Johnson