PROKOFIEV Violin Sonata No 1. 5 Melodies. Romeo and Juliet Suite
The Japanese violinist Lisa Oshima has by no means gone for the easier option here, choosing, instead of Prokofiev’s more lyrical D major Violin Sonata, the grimmer, tougher, more brooding one in F minor. On a 2014 Hyperion release, Alina Ibragimova and Steven Osborne combine both sonatas (together with the Five Melodies), and in the First Sonata give a performance of terrific and terrifying intensity. But with Oshima’s different choices as couplings, this new disc more than holds its own.
She is matched by her pianist Stefan Stroissnig in bringing an aura of bleak apprehension to the chill opening bars, reinforced later on in the movement by her ghostly scales up and down the fingerboard like a gust of malevolent breeze. This is a sonata that Prokofiev tussled with for many years until its completion in 1946, its bitterness, dissonance and hard-won lyrical force reflecting the horrors, harshness and hardships of war and maybe even of Stalin’s Russia, though ironically it won the Stalin Prize in 1947. Oshima and Stroissnig certainly seem to have a clear and disturbing picture of the sonata’s emotional implications, which are incorporated into an interpretation of impressive dynamic thrust, unnerving harmonic and rhythmic twists and turns, and an eerie sense of shadows, foreboding and, in the finale, violent anguish.
Following this with the tender, reflective first miniature in the set of Five Melodies was a shrewd idea, releasing the sonata’s tension and introducing the ear to the sweetness and fullness that Oshima can also conjure from her violin, though passion, too, aptly erupts at the start of the third piece. The Cinderella extracts (arranged by Mikhail Fichtenholz) and the Romeo and Juliet Suite (arranged by Lidia Baich and Matthias Fletzberger) find both Oshima and Stroissnig finely attuned to atmosphere and to the music’s dramatic connotations.