Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano (take two)

I posted about this piece for the first time in September 2011, but didn’t elaborate. It was then and remains my favorite musical piece in any genre. Its blend of cacophony and harmony were a staple of Prokofiev’s, but that sudden change to harmony in the middle of the first moment and the glissandos accompanying, followed by that pizzicato then reverting back to that harrowing glissando, then pizzicato again just gives me shivers. The deliberateness on the piano reaching the end, the sudden vibrance and intensity of that second movement. The first is a lament; the second, a demand.

The entire piece is a recognition of and plea to recognize the tragedy of twentieth-century human history: a paean, as it were, to the loss of the times. The trenches at Passchendaele are there, the purges, the camps, Nagasaki, Okinawa. You can hear it in those discordant notes, the bass on the piano fighting with the violin’s more sober themes; you can feel the tension and can envision corresponding film scenes/documentary footage. None of those had occurred when Prokofiev composed this in 1909.

Then the third movement becomes serene; a calm in the storm. Until at its end the pizzicato resumes as it moves into its final movement, the pace dramatically picks up, though the tone remains upbeat: then right at the end, a turn back toward discord and harmony then and more pizzicato work. And gradually the violin takes up the glissando, the piano comes back and one is left with a vision of all-encompassing beauty. Some suggestion that perhaps we’re not all doomed.

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~ by Benji on 10 August 2015.

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