Prokofiev: Pensées, Op. 62; Things in Themselves, Op. 45; Four Pieces, Op. 32; Four Études, Op. 2

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Pensées, Op. 62; Things in Themselves, Op. 45; Four Pieces, Op. 32; Four Études, Op. 2
PERFORMER: Frederic Chiu (piano)
First a small brickbat: the booklet notes consist only of a conversation between Frederic Chiu and Prokofiev’s younger son Oleg which, while fascinating in itself, should have been supplemented with information on the pieces, particularly as many of them aren’t well known. Nine come under the heading of juvenilia, and reveal a sometimes brash brilliance, an alarming fluency, and in the case of the rather appealingly indulgent Melody in E flat, a predilection for nostalgia. Chiu also includes the Four Études, Op. 2, of 1909, which contain not only distorted echoes of Rachmaninov but also elements of his harmonic piquancy and of his virtuoso writing at its most flamboyantly challenging – witness the complex passagework in the evidently misnamed Andante semplice. But not everything is the product of youth: there are two pieces rather oddly entitled Things in Themselves, Op. 45, from 1928, and the three Pensées, Op. 62, written in Paris in 1933-4 – collections spanning a fascinating period in Prokofiev’s creative life when his music was beginning to take on more lyrical, spacious, simple aspects. The first of the Pensées, in fact, has distinct resonances of Debussy. Chronologically in between come the Four Pieces, Op. 32 (1918), elegant, Classical and charming dance forms which culminate in a lovely, warm waltz. Chiu plays everything with considered sensitivity, pushing nothing, not even the most aggressive music, too hard, and with a satin quality to his tone. Stephen Pettitt