PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No 2; Violin Sonata
This splendidly recorded performance of the Second Concerto accentuates its stark and sudden contrasts – the first movement’s swings of mood and texture, the Andante’s pairing of romantic melody with mechanical accompaniment. It’s very different from the work’s premiere recording, by Heifetz with the Boston SO and Koussevitzky. Taking the main theme and second subject at a flowing pace, Heifetz manages to unify the first Allegro’s disparate elements and in the Andante his faster tempo brings its expressive character to the fore, with the accompanying arpeggios less prominent than on the new recording. Jansen’s playing, notable for its confident manner and wide expressive nuance – and in the finale matching Heifetz for incisiveness – persuades us of the validity of her view of the concerto.
In the Sonata for two violins, Jansen and Brovtsyn employ a wide range of tone colour, matching each other in expansiveness and virtuosity. In the quicker movements they allow the tempo to slow down for quieter passages; the violinists of the Pavel Haas Quartet keep more closely to the basic speed, making the music appear more cogent and unified, whereas Brovtsyn and Jansen reveal more fully its expressive range.
For me, the highlight of the disc is the Violin Sonata, surely one of Prokofiev’s greatest works. Its sombre power is fully revealed in Jansen and Golan’s account, from the first movement’s anguished double-stopping, brittle pizzicato and icy scale passages, through the ferocious combat and sweet regret of the two middle movements, to the finale’s manic energy and intensity.