Prokofiev's Piano works
Sonata for Piano, No 5 in C major Op 38. Legende, Prelude and Scherzo Humoristique, Op 12, Nos 6 & 7 Hans Graf (piano).
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 5 in G major, Op55. Alfred Brendel (piano) The Vienna State Opera Orchestra (Sternberg).
Nixa SPLP527 (12 in., 39s. 6d.).
Long-playing records open the door for the compiler of anthologies. In this doublesider, opportunity is given to study the works of the protean composer, Prokoflev, in miniature; the two sides certainly contain a wealth of variety, a bewildering galaxy of brilliants. But anthologies have their limitations, as all the modern digests have. Anyone who thinks that, having heard this record through its duplicate kaleidoscope, he knows his Prokofiev is just being plain silly. There is a countless horde of dancing dots arranged in order by this ever-active composer to be calculated with. The very dates are restrictive. The short pieces come (says the dictionary) from 1908-13, the Fifth Piano Sonata from 1923, the Fifth Piano Concerto from 1932 – all of which, mark you, reckons with the newly embracing action of the Soviet Government.
We cannot, for the moment, but count our many blessings, and record what the gramophone anthologist bids us hear. The early pieces have considerable charm and are interesting especially to anyone who concerns himself with the swiftly changing styles of nineteenth-century music. The composer was quite capable, even then, of guying his own Rachmaninovisrns in the Prelude. The Fifth Piano Sonata shows a flowing invention – it is a sort of kindly, unautocratic soliloquy in cultured terms (or so I find). There is a quite touching mixture of neo-classicism and. French impressionism in the firt. ntvernent, and a rattleof. argument in the third. Herr Graf, the pianist on this side, has control and imagination; I like his work. The piano tone has proper echo and a living quality – especially in the middle movement it is very realistic, with the right ring.
The Piano Concerto No 5 is a more complex piece to assess. In the first movement Prokofiev shows his love of childish toys; here is simplicity tricked out by ingenuity to conform to modern ways of life. I find the March a futile satire on things not worth powder and shot. The third movement Is persuasive and discordant conversation. The fourth is quite lovely, indeed large in scale of thought, and after it the fifth seemed not unsuitable, though I found myself wondering why, subconsciously. I could get away from the word "naughty" and all its nursery connotations.