Prokofiev: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2, 3, 5 & 9

Yefim Bronfman

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Prokofiev: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2, 3, 5 & 9 Review

by Robert Cummings

With this disc, we are offered the third and final volume in Bronfman's survey of the Prokofiev Sonatas. There have been fourteen other such cycles issued in the past six or seven years, making this repertory as heavily trafficked of late as the Beethoven Sonatas. Pianists must contend with the imposing likes of Raekallio/Ondine and Berman/Chandos to name two of the better efforts. As I write this, Gavrilov's cycle on DG is still coming out and is probably worthy of attention. Also-rans of some interest include Sandor/Vox and McLachlan/Olympia. Where does Bronfman fall in this esteemed company?

His capstone issue features a Third to rank with the best (Graffman/Columbia, another performance that ought to be reissued). Try Bronfman's close, beginning with the recapitulation of the main theme (track 5; 5:30), and notice how he disrobes the gossamer-layered textures with a cleverly-nuanced light touch that captivates the ear while instructing the mind. The notes effervesce beneath his nimble fingers as they speed breathlessly by with an athletic grace. A performance to cherish!

Bronfman's Fifth (heard here in the composer's earlier-and better-version) surpasses all others I've heard. Listen to his delicious rendering of the free-spirited decadence of the middle movement, or sample his caustic account of the intractable but bizarrely appealing finale.

If Bronfman's Second is surpassed by Berman's and his Ninth equaled by that of Raekallio, Berman and others, his traversals are nonetheless worthwhile entries. He plumbs the earlier work for a more expressive yield than most other pianists and generally succeeds, but at the expense, as in the first movement, of needed momentum and vitality. His Ninth is a fine account: gentle, lyrical, witty, and featuring a silken tone, an especially welcome attribute in this unpretentious, beautiful work.

This is a splendid disc, then, to cap his impressive cycle (Nos. 7 and 8 comprised Volume I and Nos. 1, 4 and 6 Volume 2). Excellent sound here, too. Highly recommended.

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