In 1935 whilst in Paris Prokofiev was persuaded (probably by [conductor Piero] Coppola) to record some of his solo works for French HMV. He probably had a group of his own works that he specifically chose to play before the public, as he selected the Andante from the Fourth Sonata as well as some Gavottes, the popular Suggestion Diabolique Op.4, excerpts from Visions Fugitives and two new works from Op.59 which he had just written. The Etude from Op.52 had been written a few years before and is an adaptation of music from his ballet The Prodigal Son.
Four sessions were needed to complete the recordings - the 12th, 25th and 26th February and the 4th March 1935. The Andante from the Fourth Sonata was recorded at the last session in one take along with a fourth take of Op.31 & Op.25 which, in the end proved unnecessary as take 3 was published. Not surprisingly, the Etude Op.52 required the most takes, six in all, with take four being selected for release.
The first appearance of the B material, starting at measure 33 and going through 53. Pages four and five below:
I've been referencing Boris Berman's book Prokofiev's Piano Sonatas for performance and analysis tips. He points out that this movement was a favorite of Prokofiev's and Berman draws his performance advice from both an orchestrated version the Prokofiev made (alas, unavailable at IMSLP) and a recording that Prokofiev made in 1935. I recently purchased a CD of all of Prokofiev's piano recordings (along with another CD with those of Debussy), but I've avoided listening to this movement in order to get it in my head better. Though, admittedly, the Nissman recording already dominates my ear.
The B material, ignoring the 6-measure bridge, consists of two 3-measure phrases, repeated and connected by one measure that mimics the last measure of the bridge. (3+3)+1+(3+3). The repeat is a slight variation on the first. The repetition/variation of the 3-measure phrase reminds me of that of the melody in the A section. Technically, this was much easier and is close to performance level now, so much of this week was also spent with the considerably more taxing earlier pages. Next up is the return to the A (which is a near exact repeat of the music just prior), a variation on the B-bridge, and then finally the brilliant closing section that combines both A and B melodies. I've read through it a couple of times, and it's going to be extremely enjoyable once I get it in my hands.
Beginning to get comfortable with the end of the first repeat of the A section, eight measures from 25 through 32, ending on the first measure of page 4. Page 3 is below:
The overall structure (revising what I had in my first post) is:
I still have a tendency to hear the beginning A of the second section as belonging to the first section, but it is repeated note-for-note in the beginning of the third section and so may be more appropriately viewed in this new structure. The eight measures, crossing two pages, are stitched together in a single image below:
The instances of the A theme as first stated in measures 1-24 were interleaved: successive ones starting before the previous had ended. The instances of the A theme in these eight measures are placed against each other in contrary motion. The first four measures with the bass rising and the soprano falling until they cross; the second four with the upper voice splitting in two from a unison to the final note in measure 32 three octaves apart. Lines first converging and then spreading out. The interleaving in measures 1-24 make me think of different characters entering a scene in a movie or ballet, each talking against the other a la Altman. At measures 25-32, the conversations/dancers are more synchronized.
Technically, these have been the most strenuous and won't be completely comfortable for a while. The B theme will be both a physical respite and an aural one with noticeably less chromaticism.
I've got the first half of the A section, through measure 21, in my hands now. Here are the first two pages, the last measure of page 2 is measure 22 and the beginning of the A-section bridge:
The chromatic theme is stated several times, beginning on different notes, and overlapping:
This feels like A minor and then G minor in the last statement moving to the bridge. Measures 19-21 were the hairiest so far, but with the parts separated across the keyboard they were also the easiest to make audible sense of. Measures 13-15 (from the last two measures of page 1) are going to be more difficult to make sense of because those descending octave notes (played by the left hand) cut across the melody and accompaniment. At this point in my playing, the different parts in these measures are very muddled.
This evening, I focused primarily on 19-21:
The rest of the month is slated for looking at the 2nd movement of Prokofiev's 4th Piano Sonata. (Edition purchased a few years ago. Two years ago, I had worked on slow movements from two other Sonatas.) I started, slowly, a week or so ago but will be spending time every day for the rest of the month to see how far I can get.
There's a public domain score on IMSLP that appears to be the exact same printing as what I'm using (Leeds Music Corp. and Meliott/Melliot Press), so it will be convenient to reference and screencap it for inclusion here. Pages 9 through 16; eight in all.
Form: the A section contains a chromatic theme and runs to the first measure of page 4. The theme is repeated twice with the two instances connected by a three-measure bridge starting at the last measure of page 2. The B section begins with a fanfare-like bridge, then a page-and-a-half of a lyric theme. The A section returns at the top of page 6. At the bottom of that page the B section returns. In the middle of page 7, the lyric B theme returns again, this time with the chromatic A theme overlaid in the bass. Overall: A A-bridge A | B-bridge B A B-bridge B | BA.
Just found tickets from last November at the ASO where we heard a chamber group performing Bernstein's "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs". Outstanding mix of jazz; one of the more respectful of his borrowings. World premiere of Wynton Marsalis's Blues Symphony. I felt it was just nice. Also Olli Mustonen performing Ravel's Piano Concerto in G maj. Prompted me to purchase the score and learn the slow movement (done, working on memorizing now).
Last Thursday, Bach and more Stravinsky (this time Pulcinella and Firebird, matching previous concerts' Petroushka and Rite of Spring). Beautiful performance of Bach's keyboard concerto by Dinnerstein with a pared down string orchestra.
Created a playlist of Marsalis discussing his symphony at the keyboard (no entry yet on Wikipedia):
My favorite time at the piano for the last month or so has been working on two slow movements from different Prokofiev piano sonatas. The third movement, Andante in G-sharp minor, from the Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14, and the second movement, Andante sognando in D-flat major, from the Piano Sonata No. 8 in B-flat major, Op. 84. The Barbara Nissman recording I have of #s 1 through 8 (the first complete recording of his Piano Sonatas) is on my desert island list. The works have that mix of lyrical and spikey that I like from the Russians, and Nissman tears into them with passion.
Going through the sheet music makes me appreciate all the more what he does with harmony and multiple voices on the piano. Starting at the end of measure 44 of op. 14's ABAB slow movement, here's the climax of the 2nd A section:
Broken third accompaniment in sixths in the right hand, then split between the hands, the simple, emphatic melody above, and a wave of G-sharp minor arpeggios (this movement's primary key) in the bass. The phrase's opening chromatically descending sixths in the left hand hint at the chromatically descending tritones in the same hand for the final phrase of the section (shown lighter in triplets). The chromatic lines are then taken up with more of a leggiero feel in an inner voice in the B section's right hand. Even at it's busiest, the piece holds together with an economy of means: broken thirds, sixths, and chromatic scales hold A and B together. This one slice of the work holds the DNA for the entire piece.
Op. 84's slow movement (also a flowing andante but more dreamlike, sognando) is ABABA but with great variation in each repetition. The first A repeats the melody three times with a short bridge inserted between the second and third repetition. Here's the first half of the odd and somewhat patchwork bridge:
I can't figure out his intentions. The overlaps don't seem to flow for me even with the sort of stretto in the different voices. Hmm. I do, however, love the two measures of false return of the second A section (the actual A appears immediately after), especially the right-hand accompaniment:
And finally, the opening phrase of the last A section. Melody in the middle voice, swapped between hands while broken A-flat octaves (the dominant of the key and echoing the syncopation and open intervals of the B section) appear in the outside voices:
Similar to the chromatically ascending chords in the right hand of the previous example, the accompanying octaves follow a general rule and break it when they need. In the first example, the chords occationally skip whole tones instead of half in order to fit the melody better; in the second, the octaves' jumps vary slightly to fit the empty spaces in the melody. Both movement have simple melodies that are worked with great variation throughout.