Pavel Berman / Vardan Mamikonian

Prokofiev: Complete Works for Violin & Piano

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The two sonatas for violin and piano of Sergey Prokofiev could hardly be more contrasting, though their dates of composition overlapped. The first sonata, in F minor, was written between 1938 and 1946 and is a brutal, almost savage work at times filled with angst and tumult. The maudlin first movement was performed at the composer's funeral in 1953. By contrast, the second sonata, composed originally for flute and piano in 1943 and transposed for violin at the behest of David Oistrakh in 1944, is much more classically minded, melodious, and agreeable. The only other works Prokofiev was to write for violin and piano came again in the form of a transcription, this time as a set of Five Songs Without Words composed for soprano and piano in 1923. Performing on this Dynamic album is violinist Pavel Berman and pianist Vardan Mamikonian. For much of the two sonatas, Berman's sound and approach to his instrument is ideally suited to Prokofiev's aggressive, energized writing. The brutality of the First Sonata's Allegro brusco and the Second Sonata's vivacious Scherzo are clear highlights wherein Berman grabs listeners by the shirt and demands (and retains) their attention and respect. Some of the quieter, more delicate moments in the sonatas, however, find Berman playing with a sound that comes across as almost tentative or timid. Still, his brilliant technical mastery and the clear connection made with Mamikonian make this recording one worth checking out.

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