WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3; Piano Sonata No. 5; Piano Sonata No. 9
PERFORMER: Yefim Bronfman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 53273 DDD
‘But he is some sort of wild animal!’ exclaimed a member of Diaghilev’s circle when Prokofiev first came to play the piano for the impresario in 1914. The same could be said of the charismatic Yakov Kasman; would that the painful sensitivities the composer developed over the years had found more of a place here, too. Kasman leaps in to what should be the couched aggressions of the outer movements in Sonatas Nos 6 and 7 so violently that the ensuing juggernauts of destruction hold no terrors for the listener (they should). Compare the more refined Bronfman, with his clearer-profiled melodies and more controlled left-hand weightiness, in No. 2, and it’s clear how Kasman squanders half-lights and contained power in favour of generalised excitement. It comes as no surprise that while Bronfman chooses the original 1923 version of the Fifth, Kasman blazes through the surprisingly abrasive revision.
Not that Kasman is entirely predictable. He has a way with the rubato of an earlier, Romantic Russian school that makes the Rachmaninov-derived First Sonata and the powerful nostalgia of the Eighth affecting. I always thought of the enigmatic Ninth as the kind of exercise in late-Prokofiev pathos that Bronfman exquisitely unfolds, but Kasman compellingly reveals in it unexpected chasms and nightmares. An overall rating fails to reflect such surprises. David Nice