PROKOFIEV Piano Sonatas Nos 1 - 5
Peter Donohoe and Prokofiev go back more than 30 years on disc. He first recorded the Seventh Sonata in 1982 (HMV, 3/83), then again in 1991 along with the two other so-called ‘War Sonatas’, Nos 6 and 8 (EMI, 11/91). Next, we fast-forward more than 20 years later to the present 2013 release containing Sonatas Nos 1-5. Somm’s close-up, slightly airless yet impactful sound creates an impact that is both warm and biting, one that befits equally the repertoire and Donohoe’s pianism. The best way to approach the blustery one-movement First Sonata is to throw subtlety to the wind and simply play the hell out of it without banging. That’s precisely what Donohoe does here. He welds the Second Sonata’s outer movements’ motoric patterns into sweeping, discreetly pedalled paragraphs that stress arm weight over steel-plated finger power. Similar observations apply to the Third Sonata, although a wider dynamic range would have helped differentiate the theme’s distinct characters. Notice, however, Donohoe’s impressively controlled soft staccato chords at the Allegro tempestoso’s return.
The Fourth Sonata’s sombre first two movements may lack the pearly translucence of Sviatoslav Richter or Frederic Chiu, yet Donohoe’s animated tempi and clear melody/accompaniment textural delineation compensate. Following a slightly rushed and foursquare first movement, Donohoe absolutely nails the Fifth Sonata’s Andantino to a proverbial tee, giving the impression that the detached chords and long single-line legato melody are coming from different instruments. He gauges the finale’s gentle ostinatos and counterlines with a masterful understatement that barely hints at the loud, dissonant chiming chords lurking around the corner. Evidently Donohoe harbours great affection for this underrated, attractively French-tinged masterpiece. That leaves just the Ninth Sonata for Donohoe to record; with any luck we won’t have to wait 20 more years.