Mikhail Simonyan / Alexei Podkorytov

Prokofiev: Sonatas for Violin and Piano

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Though completed only some three years apart, the two violin sonatas of Sergey Prokofiev are of a completely different nature. The D major Sonata, which began its life as a flute sonata, is squarely rooted in the classical tradition of writing for two instruments. While the melodies are at times complex, the overall mood of the sonata is optimistic and concludes with a lively, triumphant march. The F minor Sonata was begun long before the D major, but was shelved and completed later. Thought by many to be among Prokofiev's darkest, most despondent works, the sonata is reflective of the postwar desolation that surrounded many composers of the time. Harsh chords, brutal attacks, and sparse harmonies permeate the powerful piece. Russian-born violinist Mikhail Simonyan and pianist Alexei Podkorytov take on the unenviable task of bringing these two contrasting works together on one album. The D major Sonata, performed first, is filled with appropriate youthful exuberance. Simonyan's sound, however, is sometimes extremely bright even for this sunnier of the two works. High in his register, this can come across as somewhat grating. Given this excessive brightness, it's mildly surprising that Simonyan does a much better job of capturing that dark, sultry mood of the F minor sonata. The frequent trips lower onto the violin's G and D strings allow for Simonyan to really dig in without overpowering. Balance between the violin and piano is quite nice, and the duo produce an eerily still, hushed quiet tone together.

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