Prokofiev and the piano

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piston
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Prokofiev and the piano

Post by piston » Fri Aug 17, 2007 6:11 pm

Monsieur Prokofiev was a very talented pianist who displayed considerable virtuosity at the conservatoire. His piano concertos are truly outstanding, almost all five of them. He also wrote nine piano sonatas and numerous other solo piano pieces such as Ten episodes, op. 12, Five Sarcasms, op. 17, Music for children, op. 65, Three Pieces, op. 59, Twenty Visions Fugitives, op. 22, Tales of an Old Grandmother, op. 31, Four Pieces, op. 32, and Pensées, op. 62.

Question 1: Why are not the solo piano pieces equally as famous as those of a Debussy or a Ravel? Needless to say that Prokofiev's concertos are probably more famous than Debussy's (none) and Ravel's (two). But the solo pieces, with some notable exceptions such as his sonatas no. 7-9, seemingly do not measure up to those of the two French composers (consider, for instance, how often music sites such as this see forumists post about great Debussy or Ravel pianists).

Question 2: If you agree that (1) is true, do you think that Prokofiev's piano music would have gained in poetry and soul if he had emulated the impressionists? :D
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 17, 2007 7:13 pm

I have played through a fair amount of Prokofiev, and the short answer is that he is simply not as good a composer for solo piano as Debussy. Sometimes things are that simple. I'm leaving Ravel out of the picture advisedly, it being the case that he complicates the matter significantly, but it is more to the point to wonder that anyone after Brahms could still write solo piano music of the caliber we have from Debussy, who was arguably the last great composer in that medium there has been.

I cannot explain this opinion objectively--as who can explain such things at all?--but in general a consensus is established based on an unspoken agreement about artistic value established over time. That is our only real basis other than our own ears for determining artistic worth, and more often than not our own ears confirm the consensus. In plainer English, if Prokofiev were a great piano composer, we would hear him all the time as we do Debussy. I know that sounds like circular reasoning, but in art sometimes that is all we have.

Before Karl Henning and others descend on me, I admire Prokofiev, but not every composer brought the Midas touch to everything he endeavored.

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Post by Chalkperson » Fri Aug 17, 2007 7:35 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I have played through a fair amount of Prokofiev, and the short answer is that he is simply not as good a composer for solo piano as Debussy. Sometimes things are that simple.
Absolutely right, and it is not as easy to listen to as Debussy either...
Before Karl Henning and others descend on me.
Karl seems to have temporarily lost his sanity, judging by the increasingly juvenile nature of his threads...I would not worry about his opinion anymore... :wink:

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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 17, 2007 7:39 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:I have played through a fair amount of Prokofiev, and the short answer is that he is simply not as good a composer for solo piano as Debussy. Sometimes things are that simple.
Absolutely right, and it is not as easy to listen to as Debussy either...
Before Karl Henning and others descend on me.
Karl seems to have temporarily lost his sanity, judging by the increasingly juvenile nature of his threads...I would not worry about his opinion anymore... :wink:
I cannot let that go unchallenged. He is one of the finest musicians here, and I was only remarking that he happens to be a particular afficianado of the Russian composers, and has occasionally gotten on my case for my alleged Germanophilia.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by Chalkperson » Fri Aug 17, 2007 8:34 pm

jbuck919 wrote: I cannot let that go unchallenged. He is one of the finest musicians here, and I was only remarking that he happens to be a particular afficianado of the Russian composers, and has occasionally gotten on my case for my alleged Germanophilia.
I was not disputing his ability as a musician, or composer, in the least...I was merely referring to his recent threads, which made me question the validity of his opinion, and thus, of his sanity...he has probably been spending too much time in the sun...

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Post by John F » Fri Aug 17, 2007 8:35 pm

Prokofiev was a modernist composer, especially during the years when he wrote most of his piano music; Debussy was a post-Romantic. With Prokofiev as with Bartók, another great pianist-composer, the piano was a percussion instrument, while with Debussy the piano was all about color. Debussy was into pictorial music, Prokofiev into music expressing frames of mind, not all of them pretty. (He wrote a set of pieces called "Sarcasms," and the "Visions Fugitives" carry titles like "Ridicolosamente," "Feroce," and "Inquieto." They're no more comparable, I'd say, than Debussy's piano music is with Beethoven's or Bach's.

Even today, not many pianists program the solo piano music of Prokofiev, Bartók, Schoenberg, and the other modernists; they (and their audiences) don't find it as appealing as the less aggressive sounds of Debussy and Ravel. Which is fine. But popularity or lack of it doesn't measure the quality of the music. Besides, in the late '30s and the '40s Prokofiev adopted a less aggressively modernistic, more romantic style, as in the ballet "Romeo and Juliet" and the Symphony #5, and the piano sonatas 6-8 composed in this more accessible style do get a fair number of performances and recordings, though still mainly by Russian pianists. (The Concerto #3 is popular with pianists and audiences worldwide.)

Personally, without taking anything away from Debussy and Ravel, I wouldn't be without Prokofiev's piano music either. At its best it can have a power and excitement that neither of the Frenchmen equaled (or wanted to), and in the later works a distinctive melodic beauty of its own. And it hasn't lacked for great interpreters, from Prokofiev himself to Horowitz, Richter, Gilels, and Ashkenazy just for starters. If fewer people find it to their taste than Debussy, and write less about it online, well, fewer people find Debussy to their taste than Beethoven. It's a matter of taste.

Do I think Prokofiev's piano music would have gained in any way if he had copied Debussy and Ravel instead of developing his own very individual style? Would Debussy's piano music have gained in poetry and soul if he had imitated Chopin? Certainly not; it would merely have lost such poetry and soul as Debussy's own style was capable of. And the same applies to Prokofiev.
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 17, 2007 9:00 pm

John F wrote:Prokofiev was a modernist composer, especially during the years when he wrote most of his piano music; Debussy was a post-Romantic. With Prokofiev as with Bartók, another great pianist-composer, the piano was a percussion instrument, while with Debussy the piano was all about color. Debussy was into pictorial music, Prokofiev into music expressing frames of mind, not all of them pretty. (He wrote a set of pieces called "Sarcasms," and the "Visions Fugitives" carry titles like "Ridicolosamente," "Feroce," and "Inquieto." They're no more comparable, I'd say, than Debussy's piano music is with Beethoven's or Bach's.

Even today, not many pianists program the solo piano music of Prokofiev, Bartók, Schoenberg, and the other modernists; they (and their audiences) don't find it as appealing as the less aggressive sounds of Debussy and Ravel. Which is fine. But popularity or lack of it doesn't measure the quality of the music. Besides, in the late '30s and the '40s Prokofiev adopted a less aggressively modernistic, more romantic style, as in the ballet "Romeo and Juliet" and the Symphony #5, and the piano sonatas 6-8 composed in this more accessible style do get a fair number of performances and recordings, though still mainly by Russian pianists. (The Concerto #3 is popular with pianists and audiences worldwide.)

Personally, without taking anything away from Debussy and Ravel, I wouldn't be without Prokofiev's piano music either. At its best it can have a power and excitement that neither of the Frenchmen equaled (or wanted to), and in the later works a distinctive melodic beauty of its own. And it hasn't lacked for great interpreters, from Prokofiev himself to Horowitz, Richter, Gilels, and Ashkenazy just for starters. If fewer people find it to their taste than Debussy, and write less about it online, well, fewer people find Debussy to their taste than Beethoven. It's a matter of taste.

Do I think Prokofiev's piano music would have gained in any way if he had copied Debussy and Ravel instead of developing his own very individual style? Would Debussy's piano music have gained in poetry and soul if he had imitated Chopin? Certainly not; it would merely have lost such poetry and soul as Debussy's own style was capable of. And the same applies to Prokofiev.
I forgot about Bartok. But nobody performs the advanced sets of "Mikrokosmos" either. They are not inferior; they are simply (ha) too severe. Schoenberg, as I have posted recently, was simply not a pianistic composer and his solo piano works suck, to put a word on it. (At the risk of stating the obvious, Debussy and Bartok were great pianists; Schoenberg was not.)

As to the matter of Debussy owing to Chopin, exactly who else do you think he is indebted to? Hummel, perhaps? (I'm sorry for the sarcasm, but cripes almighty, as my father would say....)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Wallingford » Fri Aug 17, 2007 9:04 pm

Speaking as a keyboardist, I must say that--along with Shostakovich--Prokofiev, Bartok, Debussy and Ravel were THE great 20th-century piano writers. I can vividly sense how each of them had played, each was his own genius (I somehow can't help counting Rachmaninov as a romantic).
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Post by piston » Fri Aug 17, 2007 9:31 pm

John F. I respect your opinion but cannot agree fully with this informed opinion. Bartok's piano music is more than percussive; it has plenty of soul and tremendous cultural life. Not so with S. P.. Moreover, the chronological distance between Ravel and Prokofiev is short and Maurice could engage in very modernist musical expression, such as his sonata for violin and cello. But Ravel brought a life to his piano music, a noticeable inspiration which I fail to hear (as much) in Sergei's. Perhaps there is some truth to the gossip that Prokofiev was very much driven by material gain and piano, well, just didn't do that for him. But it seems to me that you are arguing for a more "modern" Prokofiev than Ravel and I doubt that was the case. Prokofiev was quite lost in the sea of modernism.
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 17, 2007 9:36 pm

Wallingford wrote:Speaking as a keyboardist, I must say that--along with Shostakovich--Prokofiev, Bartok, Debussy and Ravel were THE great 20th-century piano writers. I can vividly sense how each of them had played, each was his own genius (I somehow can't help counting Rachmaninov as a romantic).
Well said. I also forgot Shosty's exeedingly fine Preludes and Fugues. To paraphrase a friend of mine, I once played a prelude and made someone cry; then I tried to play the fugue and I cried.

I think we may allow ourselves the indulgence of admitting Rachmaninov into the exclusive company. I can never get over his Corelli Variations, and they are in their own way as modern as modern gets.

(Before anybody dumps on us pianists here, I am aware that both Schoenberg and Stravinsky, neither a pianist, wrote important works involving the piano; just not the piano alone.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by John F » Fri Aug 17, 2007 9:48 pm

What is "soul"? How does one detect its presence or absence in a piece of music? I simply don't understand what you mean. And if you "fail to hear" life or inspiration in Prokofiev's piano music, that doesn't mean they aren't there; I hear plenty of both. I repeat, this is about taste, and while you're certainly entitled to your preferences, taste really says more about oneself than about the music. With you and me both.

Anyway, there is absolutely no question that Prokofiev in works like the Symphony #2 and the Scythian Suite was right in the modernist mainstream, side by side with "Le Sacre du Printemps" and "The Miraculous Mandarin," just as his "Suggestion diabolique" for piano is cognate with Bartok's "Allegro barbaro." Ravel, on the other hand, was if anything more conservative than Debussy; none of his music, including the sonata for violin and cello (which in places does go beyond his norm but essentially remains within it), is in the modernist territory of Bartok/Prokofiev/Stravinsky/Schoenberg. Ravel would have been offended at the very suggestion.
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Post by piston » Fri Aug 17, 2007 11:44 pm

Didn't know you were personally acquainted with Ravel and how he perceived himself compared to other composers. Very impressive. We differ fundamentally in the categorization of these composers. I see them as belonging to the same post-romantic period; you, rather arbitrarily in my opinion, characterize Debussy and Ravel as post-romantic and Prokofiev as "modern." The ground separating a Prokofiev from a Roslavets is measured in miles compared to the few yards separating him from a Ravel or a Debussy (in Jeux, Khamma, Etudes for piano, late chamber works). Getting back to solo piano music, rather than symphonies, Cinderella, Romeo and Juliette, or Ivan the Terrible, Prokofiev's piano works are not less likeable because they're more modern (incidentally, I can recognize a "modern" piano piece when I listen to the Russian composers like Ustvolskaya) but because they are all too often not so inspired. "Post-romantic" piano pieces less inspired than Ravel's or Debussy's -- no modern quantum leap as far as I'm concerned.
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Re: Prokofiev and the piano

Post by Lance » Sat Aug 18, 2007 12:34 am

As a pianophile, I have never been drawn to Prokofiev's solo piano music to any great degree (the one big exception being his Toccata, which I think is an incredible gem). His piano concertos I adore, particularly Nos. 1 through 4 inclusive. The spark that seems to be missing in the sonatas and solo pieces has more to do with harmonic and rhythmic points, which are more abundant in the concertos. Based on what I have heard of Prokofiev in concert and recordings—pretty much everything he wrote—I don't think it was within Prokofiev to write with the kind of poetry and soul that was inherent in Rachmaninoff, for example, or Debussy and Ravel. The two schools are diametrically opposed, especially with regards to tonal color, which is much more subtle in Debussy and Ravel. But I would not want to live in a world of music that did not include all three composers. It's a very good question - and a difficult one to answer. So much is dependent on lifestyles of each creator, and Prokofiev's was not an easy one, yet, stylistically, we can always recognize his music. In general, I think people are less enamoured (less comfortable) with Prokofiev's solo music outside of, say, the Toccata (usually an encore), the Suggestion diabolique, and a few others.
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Post by some guy » Sat Aug 18, 2007 3:01 am

Fascinating.

I don't find Prokofiev's solo piano music any less interesting than his other works. I know that a lot of people measure popularity by concert reality. And perhaps they aren't played in concerts as often as Debussy. I prefer to use recording reality, myself--at least let that world also be part of the measure.

And there are many recordings of Prokofiev's solo piano music. So some record company executives think that recording that music will pay off somehow.

Anyway, I can assure Lance that Prokofiev's solo piano works are just as sparkly as all get out. Interesting that you singled out the fifth concerto (by a really ostentatious omission!). I've heard that that one is lacking in various ways compared to the other ones, shallowness being one of the criticisms. Odd. It's easily the most profound of the bunch.
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Aug 18, 2007 3:59 am

Chalkperson wrote:
jbuck919 wrote: I cannot let that go unchallenged. He is one of the finest musicians here, and I was only remarking that he happens to be a particular afficianado of the Russian composers, and has occasionally gotten on my case for my alleged Germanophilia.
I was not disputing his ability as a musician, or composer, in the least...I was merely referring to his recent threads, which made me question the validity of his opinion, and thus, of his sanity...he has probably been spending too much time in the sun...
"He is as sane as you or I."

--Nurse Christine Chapel, Star Trek episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" in reference to her supposed fiance who turns out to be an android replica.

Let's face it, we all bare certain eccentricities if we post often enough here. It is part of the charm of the site that we can do so with everything forgiven in advance, as it should be among friends.

Karl is literate in the extreme in his posts and sometimes has to be read two or three times to get what he means. He also has reddish hair and fair skin and I assume knows enough to keep out of the sun. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by piston » Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:00 am

Brigitta Mazanec's liner notes on Arte Nova:

"His style is based on the musical traditions he grew up with, and the sonata form did not seem to be so much of an obstacle for him but rather a challenge. He was adept at combining expressiveness with a well-planned, careful use of resources. The composer himself divided his compositions into four basic styles: the classical style and its turn toward neo-classicism (this genre includes the sentimental Tales of an Old Grandmother, op. 31); the modern style, in which he tried to capture "a harmonious language to express powerful emotions" but which led him, as he himself said, "astray" to atonal composing; the more motoric style influenced by Robert Schumann's Toccata Op. 7; and finally the lyrical style which allowed Prokofiev to express grotesque, bizarre or extreme moods of music."
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:10 am

piston wrote:Brigitta Mazanec's liner notes on Arte Nova:

"His style is based on the musical traditions he grew up with, and the sonata form did not seem to be so much of an obstacle for him but rather a challenge. He was adept at combining expressiveness with a well-planned, careful use of resources. The composer himself divided his compositions into four basic styles: the classical style and its turn toward neo-classicism (this genre includes the sentimental Tales of an Old Grandmother, op. 31); the modern style, in which he tried to capture "a harmonious language to express powerful emotions" but which led him, as he himself said, "astray" to atonal composing; the more motoric style influenced by Robert Schumann's Toccata Op. 7; and finally the lyrical style which allowed Prokofiev to express grotesque, bizarre or extreme moods of music."
Every composer should have something of mystique about him. I am not doubting this source, but it does rather represent Prokofiev shooting himself in the foot with the anti-mystique gun, doesn't it?

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by piston » Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:39 am

Academicians, music critics and performers tend to agree on at least one point: Prokofiev is "impervious to any single analytical approach."

From the 2004 London Conference "Prokofiev in America":
"The first was a theoretical paper, in which Arnold Whittall, Professor Emeritus of Music Theory and Analysis at King's College London, shed light on the "challenge which Prokofiev's music poses to music theory and analysis" and provided a fascinating comment on "interpretations of Prokofiev by a handful of American writers". In the process, Whittall discussed and contrasted hermeneutic and technical approaches to analysis and expressed the view that these were "not incompatible" when looking at Prokofiev's music. Starting with Felix Salzer's first steps in applying Schenkerian analysis to Prokofiev, Whittall commented on the approaches of Richard Bass, Lawrence Kramer and Neil Minturn who have explored the structural and stylistic features of Prokofiev's compositions, and discussed the use of modality and the octatonic scale in Prokofiev's music. Putting in question Taruskin's view of Prokofiev as the "accessible composer", as opposed to the "modernist" Stravinsky, he commented positively on the work of a young theorist, Daniel Zimmerman, who has declared Prokofiev's music "impervious to any single analytical approach"
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Post by Opus132 » Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:50 am

Chalkperson wrote: Absolutely right, and it is not as easy to listen to as Debussy either...
Jbuck is right (he usually is). Prokofiev piano music doesn't even begin to approach Debussy late masterpieces for the instrument. To be frank, i never actually heard anything by the former which i could objectively call a masterpiece.
Last edited by Opus132 on Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by John F » Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:56 am

piston wrote:Didn't know you were personally acquainted with Ravel and how he perceived himself compared to other composers. Very impressive.
Cheap sarcasm wins no arguments. Possibly an argument might be made that Ravel's music has some relation to Modernism in music, though I don't know what that argument might be, and I haven't seen it here--not yet, anyway.

Our subject isn't Ravel, anyway, but Prokofiev, specifically his piano music. And just as I questioned the claim that this music lacks "soul," I have the same problem with the judgment that they are "not so inspired." What does "inspired" amount to and how is it measured? One may perhaps feel that a piece lacks some quality that one feels is inspiration, but I don't know how one would actually show this.

For the rest, I've said what I think and will leave it at that.
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Post by piston » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:01 am

Ravel would have been offended at the very suggestion.
Everybody has his/her own way of diminishing/belittling another person's point of view. I guess that's all I have to say as well.
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:02 am

Opus132 wrote:
Chalkperson wrote: Absolutely right, and it is not as easy to listen to as Debussy either...
Jbuck is right. Prokofiev piano music doesn't even begin to approach Debussy late masterpieces for the instrument. To be frank, i never actually heard anything by the former which i could objectively call a masterpiece.
I've back-pedaled here, but I stand by my fundamental assessment of Debussy. And many people don't know the later Etudes, which in my opinion are his greatest solo piano works.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Opus132 » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:52 am

jbuck919 wrote: I cannot let that go unchallenged. He is one of the finest musicians here, and I was only remarking that he happens to be a particular afficianado of the Russian composers, and has occasionally gotten on my case for my alleged Germanophilia.
I never seen Karl openly criticize an artist before, possibly because as a composer himself he doesn't feel the need or want to belittle individuals he probably sees as colleagues.

Us simple laymen simply do not feel such limitations. :wink:

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Post by Lance » Sat Aug 18, 2007 10:51 am

some guy wrote:Anyway, I can assure Lance that Prokofiev's solo piano works are just as sparkly as all get out. Interesting that you singled out the fifth concerto (by a really ostentatious omission!).
I've been listening to Prokofiev's solo piano music for five decades, have prepared the pianos of great artists performing the music, but I haven't been heaven-sent yet. I have many recordings by those considered the finest interpreters, but most of it hasn't touched my soul - yet. That doesn't mean it won't. Obviously many consider the solo music to be some great keyboard music of all time otherwise they wouldn't play it. It probably is great. It's just a matter of personal taste, that's all. And I do program some of Prokofiev's solo music on my programs. I'm not about to write him off!
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Post by Lance » Sat Aug 18, 2007 10:52 am

John F wrote:Prokofiev was a modernist composer, especially during the years when he wrote most of his piano music; Debussy was a post-Romantic. With Prokofiev as with Bartók, another great pianist-composer, the piano was a percussion instrument, while with Debussy the piano was all about color. Debussy was into pictorial music, Prokofiev into music expressing frames of mind, not all of them pretty. (He wrote a set of pieces called "Sarcasms," and the "Visions Fugitives" carry titles like "Ridicolosamente," "Feroce," and "Inquieto." They're no more comparable, I'd say, than Debussy's piano music is with Beethoven's or Bach's.

Even today, not many pianists program the solo piano music of Prokofiev, Bartók, Schoenberg, and the other modernists; they (and their audiences) don't find it as appealing as the less aggressive sounds of Debussy and Ravel. Which is fine. But popularity or lack of it doesn't measure the quality of the music. Besides, in the late '30s and the '40s Prokofiev adopted a less aggressively modernistic, more romantic style, as in the ballet "Romeo and Juliet" and the Symphony #5, and the piano sonatas 6-8 composed in this more accessible style do get a fair number of performances and recordings, though still mainly by Russian pianists. (The Concerto #3 is popular with pianists and audiences worldwide.)

Personally, without taking anything away from Debussy and Ravel, I wouldn't be without Prokofiev's piano music either. At its best it can have a power and excitement that neither of the Frenchmen equaled (or wanted to), and in the later works a distinctive melodic beauty of its own. And it hasn't lacked for great interpreters, from Prokofiev himself to Horowitz, Richter, Gilels, and Ashkenazy just for starters. If fewer people find it to their taste than Debussy, and write less about it online, well, fewer people find Debussy to their taste than Beethoven. It's a matter of taste.

Do I think Prokofiev's piano music would have gained in any way if he had copied Debussy and Ravel instead of developing his own very individual style? Would Debussy's piano music have gained in poetry and soul if he had imitated Chopin? Certainly not; it would merely have lost such poetry and soul as Debussy's own style was capable of. And the same applies to Prokofiev.
John Francis, you said it most eloquently, as you always do.
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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slofstra
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Post by slofstra » Sat Aug 18, 2007 11:40 am

I don't think John F needs any help from me, but the question at hand has descended into the usual one of whether you can divide composers into schools at all. To my ears, the distinctions made by John between the early 20th C composers are sensible; and such distinctions are never perfect.

We are just now getting a handle on the 'modern' school, on which the sun has only recently set: Stravinsky, Bartok, Carter (whom I have just discovered), Lutoslawski, Prokofiev. And maybe, Shostakovich has one foot in.

Debussy, Ravel and all the English composers are of a very different stamp. But we are discussing tendencies and there will be major exceptions. Stravinsky can be very lyrical, at times, for example, and even Vaughan Williams can sound modern.

I have a general feeling that a full appreciation of what the modern school has accomplished has not yet arrived. In my own listening habits, I've been more inclined to play Debussy, Ravel, late Brahms, Shostakovich, I think purely because of its accessibility. One thing I'll say is that Prokofiev is dynamite in live performance. (Piano concertoes and the violin concerto, especially). The recorded music does leave me feeling a little cold, but that is characteristic of 'modern' music, where, at it best, one often enters an icy but enchanting cavern.

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Post by IcedNote » Sat Aug 18, 2007 11:47 am

piston wrote:Academicians, music critics and performers tend to agree on at least one point: Prokofiev is "impervious to any single analytical approach."
Having written a master's thesis in music theory on Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 4, I could not possibly agree more. :D

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some guy
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Post by some guy » Sat Aug 18, 2007 5:10 pm

slofstra wrote:We are just now getting a handle on the 'modern' school
Ha ha, Henry, speak for yourself!! (Unless you were using the royal we, of course. In which case, you were already speaking only for yourself.)
slofstra wrote:I have a general feeling that a full appreciation of what the modern school has accomplished has not yet arrived.
And while I don't think that there's a modern school--several schools and even more school-less individuals--I certainly share your feeling about appreciation. And so so so much to appreciate, too.

(Yes, I do hope y'all will forgive my ploce.)
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
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slofstra
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Post by slofstra » Sun Aug 19, 2007 3:23 pm

some guy wrote:
slofstra wrote:We are just now getting a handle on the 'modern' school
Ha ha, Henry, speak for yourself!! (Unless you were using the royal we, of course. In which case, you were already speaking only for yourself.)
slofstra wrote:I have a general feeling that a full appreciation of what the modern school has accomplished has not yet arrived.
And while I don't think that there's a modern school--several schools and even more school-less individuals--I certainly share your feeling about appreciation. And so so so much to appreciate, too.

(Yes, I do hope y'all will forgive my ploce.)
Actually I had a specific 'we' in mind, and probably should have stated that I meant classical music audiences, in general. I think that audience appreciation of this music is not yet in apogee. Finally, a 'school' would refer to a collective of composers who tended to follow and mutually influence each other.

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Post by arglebargle » Sun Aug 19, 2007 5:10 pm

Well said. I also forgot Shosty's exeedingly fine Preludes and Fugues.
Ah, wonderful music indeed - inspired by this thread I'm now revistiing Nikolayeva's recording of said Preludes and Fugues, have listened to (and greatly appreciated) Idil Birets' Ligeti etudes Books I & II, and will now pursue the Prokofiev works. Thanks everyone for the insight and guidance in these matters musical.

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Post by RebLem » Mon Aug 20, 2007 12:34 am

arglebargle wrote:
Well said. I also forgot Shosty's exeedingly fine Preludes and Fugues.
Ah, wonderful music indeed - inspired by this thread I'm now revistiing Nikolayeva's recording of said Preludes and Fugues, have listened to (and greatly appreciated) Idil Birets' Ligeti etudes Books I & II, and will now pursue the Prokofiev works. Thanks everyone for the insight and guidance in these matters musical.
I have both the Nikolayeva and the Ashkenazy recordings of the preludes & fuges, and strongly prefer those of Ashkenazy for his greater emphasis on baroque restraint.

I want to suggest another reason why Prokofiev's piano music is infrequently performed: the Soviet state wasn't much interested in promoting it. Most of his piano music comes from three periods in his life--the early period in Russia, both before and after the Revolution when the futurists, for a time, held sway, before the deadly hand of Socialist Realism cast a pall over musical life there, was the first. The second was his period in the West, and the third was the wartime period, when many restrictions were relaxed because it was difficult to mount performances of anything involving large numbers of performers, for the obvious reasons. The logistics involved in arranging solo piano performances are a lot simpler and less complicated. The few piano works Prokofiev wrote in the period 1934-Sept 1939, from his return to the USSR to the beginning of the war, were mostly piano reductions of larger works, or segments of larger works, which I find instructive.

Any sort of solo instrumental music is problematic in a totalitarian state. For larger forms, you need a conspiracy of sorts to perform officially discouraged music; solo instrumental music, of course, can be performed simply by one courageous individual. It is usually harder to make anything stick to spectators and auditors. The Shostakovich string quartets and other chamber music were problematic enough without encouraging solo piano music. Of course, the DSCH Preludes & Fugues are an exception, and instructive for that; based as they are on a form Bach brought to perfection, the regime correctly considered them suitably apolitical.
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Prokofiev's Piano Music

Post by Jppiano » Sat Aug 25, 2007 10:56 am

I have found this thread quite interesting, indeed! What I would add is that Prokofiev's piano music is not music that hits you on first hearing, but that familiarity is important in it's appreciation. it took me about 25 years to really appreciate the 8th sonata; I now think of it as an absolute masterpiece (AND it took producing a CD of Sonatas 6,7,8 to get there!). Wouldnt want to without the other guys, though....

Joe P.

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Post by Donald Isler » Sat Aug 25, 2007 12:21 pm

Joe,

Who made that CD of the 6th, 7th and 8th Sonatas? Dmitri?

What I'm always impressed with is how many wonderful pianists there are who are not well-known to the general public. I got to know the 8th Sonata from an excellent live performance at Merkin Hall by Efrem Briskin, and I recall a performance by another colleague and friend from my student days, Donna Cameron, of the 6th which was so fine I still remember it.
Donald Isler

Jppiano
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Good guess, Don!

Post by Jppiano » Sat Aug 25, 2007 12:49 pm

It was indeed Dimitry Rachmanov with whom I made that CD of Prokofiev 6,7,8!

Joe

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Post by Brahms » Sat Aug 25, 2007 1:48 pm

I'll take Prokofiev over Debussy any day ..........

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Post by pizza » Sun Aug 26, 2007 12:08 am

A fine set of the Prokofiev Piano Sonatas is Yakov Kasman's on Calliope, played in the dramatic Russian style. In reviewing the Prokofiev discography, it seems there are plenty of piano recordings available.

mnmleung
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Re:

Post by mnmleung » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:45 pm

pizza wrote:A fine set of the Prokofiev Piano Sonatas is Yakov Kasman's on Calliope, played in the dramatic Russian style. In reviewing the Prokofiev discography, it seems there are plenty of piano recordings available.
Thanks for mentioning Kasman's recording. I had a listen to excerpts on iTunes and like the little snippets I have heard. Does the set come with interesting and informative notes as well? If not, I might just pick up the iTunes version.

Boris Berman gave a series of masterclasses on all 9 sonatas a few years ago and it was wonderful to hear (ex-)students from Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University perform them one by one.

Would anyone have other recordings they would recommend? I love Richter's 8th that was (is?) available on DG. Thanks from Ming
Ming, Brisbane, Australia : )

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