Sergei Prokofiev

Pieces (10) for piano, Op. 12

    Description by James Reel

    Dating from the composer's student years, these miniatures find Prokofiev in a playful mood. The opening March, with its sharp rhythm and mocking melody, looks ahead to the famous March from The Love for Three Oranges (especially harmonically, with its odd oscillation between F minor and F-sharp minor), but this is a much lighter piece. Gavotte offers early evidence of Prokofiev's Neoclassical tendencies. This is not the same Gavotte he would use in his Classical Symphony; it is more traditional (yet rather comic), a vestige of an assignment for Liadov's composition class. Rigaudon, another nod to the eighteenth century, ranges more widely than the previous movement, but lacks the fluidity and affection of the more famous Rigaudon in Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin. Similarly, the Mazurka is even more halting than its rhythmic pattern requires. It's not at all Chopinesque; Prokofiev adopts a Medieval organum procedure with two harmonic parts, each moving in parallel fourths. The Capriccio has a sharp Neoclassical melodic line, rocking Alberti bass figures, and a two-part form with a recapitulation and a long coda derived from the bass line; the piece might almost be mistaken for Poulenc.

    Legend carries no specific program. It begins with a quiet, tentative passage, a brief adagio interruption, then an answer to the opening material, all of which is repeated; next comes an Andante religioso section with its own rudimentary variations, then essentially a reverse of the first section. The Prelude, sometimes encountered in a transcription for harp ("Harp" is, in fact, its subtitle), is a rapid, sparkling, heavily figurated etude. The ABA- patterned Allemande returns to the Neoclassical approach of the Gavotte, now with a comically stomping rhythm (those oafish Germans ...) and a mildly grotesque atmosphere. Humorous Scherzo, with the notation "for four bassoons," is centered toward the low end of the keyboard, with a quick yet grumbling left-hand accompaniment. The brief trio section is comparatively placid and straightforward. The set concludes with another Scherzo, this one without an adjective. It's a vivacissimo perpetuum mobile in a breathtaking flurry of sixteenth notes, beginning pianissimo and building steadily to the sff finish.

    Parts/Movements

    1. March (after: Little Songs, 5th series No. 6)
    2. Gavotte
    3. Rigaudon
    4. Mazurka
    5. Capriccio
    6. Legends
    7. Prelude (harp)
    8. Allemande
    9. Humorous Scherzo
    10. Scherzo

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2013 CAvi-music CAVI 8553303
    2012 Mirare MIR 165
    2002 Disques Pierre Verany 791022
    2001 Harmonia Mundi 2907301/10
    1999 Danacord 393
    1999 Philips 454171
    1997 Naxos 8 553429
    1997 Harmonia Mundi HMU90 7190
    1996 Rene Gailly 87098
    1994 Vox 5514
    1992 Chandos CHAN9069
    Panton Records 0379
    Globe 5015