WORKS: Sonatas Nos 9 & 10; Piano Sonatinas Nos 1 & 2; Cello Sonata
PERFORMER: Raphael Wallfisch (cello), Peter Donohoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 256
This intelligently planned programme, played by musicians fully attuned to Prokofiev’s expressive lyricism and humour, demonstrates how his Soviet period was a rich harvest from the stylistic innovations of his Parisian years. Though I had reservations about Peter Donohoe’s previous volume of Prokofiev sonatas – his account of the first two sonatas in particular seemed earthbound – here he appears to have regained a fluency and unselfconscious approach to this music, bringing its expression to full bloom.
The result is particularly striking in the two Sonatinas of the early 1930s (the first of which Prokofiev later revisited in his unfulfilled Tenth Sonata). These early exercises in Prokofiev’s ‘new simplicity’ have often seemed rather wan and lacking in character. Here Donohoe shows them to be just as expressive and dramatic as the best of Prokofiev’s ballets, particularly the acerbic yet lyrical Prodigal Son. There are also hints of Romeo and Juliet, a ballet even more strongly evoked by the Ninth Sonata, Donohoe’s performance of that work conveying something of the harmonious resolution the two lovers discover in one another.
Donohoe’s subtlety and delicacy is perhaps most strikingly demonstrated in the Cello Sonata. Raphael Wallfisch is placed rather immediately before the mic, yet his richly-toned playing can withstand such scrutiny, and he and Donohoe give the music’s opening narrative a compelling sense of direction, making the gentle, inward quality of the exposition’s end all the more captivating.