WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 6, Piano Sonata No. 8
PERFORMER: François-Frédéric Guy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: V4898
This 32 year-old, recently one of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation artists, looks almost as if he could be the next James Bond on the cover picture of his latest release. Indeed, there’s a virile quality to his playing which comes far from amiss in these two war-time sonatas. The only rival coupling on one disc is Yakov Kasman’s, a bit cheaper and not at all to be sniffed at. Yet I’m happy to hail Guy’s version as a new benchmark, for who could imagine more impressive playing? His fingers are steely, his sound impeccably polished, and with huge reserves of strength, his sense of solidity, as if his foundations are dug deep in the ground, compare, in the Eighth Sonata, to Peter Donohoe’s. Guy builds up the first movement of the Sixth inexorably, and gives the Allegretto second movement a chiselled finish. In the very slow waltz of the third movement he reaches depths which are as black as hell, while in the finale his playing is so strong, you feel he would carry on playing if you threw a grenade at him.
The middle movement of the Eighth Sonata is not far from the relaxed warmth of the corresponding movement of the Seventh, which Guy has yet to record, and the symphonic scale of the first movement (15 minutes long) has earned the work the description of Prokofiev’s greatest piano sonata. The rich piano sound and spacious, fairly recessed, recording seem appropriate for this music, whose grandeur is touched by the grotesque and more tender moments toughened by irony. Adrian Jack