Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 9 in C; Four Studies, Op. 2; Choses en soi; Divertissement

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 9 in C; Four Studies, Op. 2; Choses en soi; Divertissement
PERFORMER: Boris Berman (piano)
This eighth volume in Berman’s complete cycle of Prokofiev’s solo piano music features works from both ends of the composer’s life. His last sonata bristles with confidence. It may lack the memorability of, say, the Seventh Sonata, but it is no less distinguished a work. Boris Berman conveys just the right sense of playfulness and lyricism, without battering out its more percussive passages. The Four Studies that follow the sonata on the disc take us back almost 40 years to 1909, when Prokofiev was honing his virtuosity on the piano. The contrast with the restrained sonata is marked. Here exuberance and novelty are to the fore, with a sense of humour looking forward to The Love for Three Oranges. Berman is equally assured in these four short pieces, bringing alive their kaleidoscopic colours and conveying his delight in their wit and technical challenges, which he takes on fearlessly. By comparison, Choses en soi from 1928 sounds bland, inconsequential and Hindemith-like, nor is the attempt to salvage his unsuccessful orchestral Divertissement of 1925-9 in a piano version particularly engaging. Berman does his best with these two works, but can’t disguise their vapidity. Matthew Rye