In 1932, Prokofiev composed a sonata for two violins that was given its first Paris performance by Samuel Dushkin and Robert Soetens, who received his own concerto from Prokofiev in 1935. Contemplating a permanent return to Stalin's Russia, Prokofiev chose not to depart from the approachable idiom of his work-in-progress, a Romeo and Juliet ballet with which he no doubt hoped to endear himself to Soviet audiences. For all its fine points, the G minor Concerto is deliberately less audacious than its predecessor, and much more traditional than Stravinsky's superficially "reactionary" work. Prokofiev begins with a movement of traditional sonata design. Whether or not one finds in its sombre opening that "image of the snow-covered plains of Russia" perceived by Israel Nestyev, Prokofiev's authorized Soviet biographer, the seductive second theme is certainly "one of the mature Prokofiev's most felicitous revelations" - a perfect demonstration of his sly way with a tune. Throughout his career, the composer would often stretch his melodic line over a harmonic frame which seems arbitrary or disconnected on the page but invariably produces the sense that his theme has been refreshed. Another typical device is the pulsating accompaniment that underpins the radiant arioso-like melody of the slow movement. In the balletic finale, a spikier version of the familiar 19th-century peasant rondo, Prokofiev takes special care to ensure that the soloist is never swamped.
Program note by David Gutman
Sony Classical (SK 53 969):
Cho-Liang Lin, violin; Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Esa-Pekka
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