17 July 2008

More Prokofiev

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:

prokofiev.sonata-2.iii.1 prokofiev.sonata-2.iii.2

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:

prokofiev.sonata-8.ii.3 prokofiev.sonata-8.ii.4

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.

[ posted by sstrader on 17 July 2008 at 7:01:18 PM in Music | tagged piano performance, prokofiev ]