INKPOT#59 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: PROKOFIEV/RAVEL Violin Sonatas. Mintz/Bronfman (DG Masters)
Violin Sonata No.1, op.80
Violin Sonata No.2, op.94MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937)
SHLOMO MINTZ violin
YEFIM BRONFMAN piano
Deutsche Grammophon Masters 445 557-2
by Ng Yeuk Fan
Life in its many-fold diversity, whether concordant or not, pulses along quite unthwartedly. Opposing facets unintendedly sit and stare each other out in a never-ending staring game. Fleetingly, emotions flaunt by us, assuaging our hurt and pained souls, dealing us joys, love and suffering while sensitizing us to a myraid of inexplicable truths. Prokofiev is this to me. Spacious dilemmas and uncommon guru wisdom are compressed into his language – music which dissects without from his innate troubled melodies.
by Piotr Konchalovsky (1876-1956).
Yet, his musical palette is always colourful, always witty and happy tunes; happy thoughts are perceivable through his schizophrenic music. Prokofiev was a real person who lived – his music was his unique expression of how he saw the world; what his thoughts and perception on the greater wisdom of things were. As real as he was, so real also was his music – it is exactly as you hear them… troubled, discordent, inexplicable, disturbed, pretty, mad, luscious, sexy …. however you may react to them; in them I hear only truth.
Prokofiev, influenced by the neoclassical movement, was one of the cleverest of modern Russian composers; equalled perhaps only by Stravinsky. He was a man of contradictions; his sardonic wit and humour, his sheer wilfulness are contrasted with a warm, Romantic, nostalgic lyricism; both of which become evident in his music.
The coupling of both Prokofiev’s Sonatas for Violin together with Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Piano is an interesting one. One cannot begin to realise the great contrast seen in this coupling without noticing the many similarities between these two most creative composers of the modern era.
One can hear the immense wit of Prokofiev in track 6, the scherzo section of his Sonata No. 2. This is contrasted with the moody lyricism in the movement that follows. Both Mintz and Bronfman are first class artists in their own right. Bronfman himself already famous for his recording of the Prokofiev Piano Sonatas on the Sony label, appears here with his usual immaculate control. One is not surprised to hear his spirited playing of Prokofiev. The pair of musicians obviously love the works that they play.
Both artists play with stylish flair and imagination; further, they communicate dead-surely with each other so that execution is near perfect. If one enjoys this music, the playing will leave you enraptured at the end. Nevertheless, I found myself wishing for a little more schizophrenia, a little more dismemberment, and a little more absurdity in the wittiest moments in this music; that would have left me breathless, and panting.
Ravel was an extraordinary orchestrator and pianistic innovator. Though his style has been conveniently categorized under “Impressionism”, his music is significantly more colourful and embellished; yet never quite abandoning 19th century tonality. He lived through the rise of Neoclassicism and even experimented with Jazz elements in his music.
It must be said that the Sonata for Violin and Piano in G included here is some sort of an exception. There is a lot of painting that goes on in this sonata. Images float about unceasingly. Droplets of piano colour and the lost soul of the vioin line paints an autumnal image in my mind. One can hear hints of Gershwin in the second movement, which is even marked “Blues: Moderato”. Mintz’s playing captures the many syncopations, which alternate with the soul-searching lines with ease. One feels that Bronfman could have been a little lighter on the piano here – more outlandish, more carefree, more blusey…
This fully digital disc is a bargain. Great playing and with excellent programming filling as much as 73’42, this mid-price coupling should not be left on the shelves.
Ng Yeuk Fan would like to think he is as schizophrenic as Prokofiev.
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