Violin Sonata No.2 in D major, Op. 94a (1943/1944)

Scherzo: Presto
Allegro con brio

In 1943 Prokofiev was living in Perm in the Ural Mountains, one of several remote locations where the Soviet government was keeping him and other prominent artists out of harm's way while the Soviet army battled the Germans. He wrote a Sonata for Flute and Piano, a task he called "perhaps inappropriate at the moment, but pleasant." The Sonata was premiered that December in Moscow.

A year later his close friend, the violinist David Oistrakh, suggested that he turn in into a Violin Sonata. Turning the flute part into a violin part involved remarkably little revision. Prokofiev said, "I wanted this sonata to have a classical, clear, transparent sonority." Some of the transparency has to do with tessitura: since the violin part is higher than "normal," there will likely be more distance between it and the piano. But the clarity also has much to do with the songful simplicity of much of the Sonata, particularly in the gentle themes of the first and third movements. Much of the Sonata has an elegance and sweetness (and a lack of a hard edge) that is reminiscent of French Impressionism. Perhaps this is no coincidence, sine Prokofiev is said to have been inspired to write it by the playing of French flutist Georges Barrere.

Program note by Howard Posner

The work is altogether more optimistic than the first sonata. The choice of key is not the only aspect which serves to remind us of the spirited moments of the Classical Symphony, while on the other hand its dreamy melodism leads to inevitable associations with the touching atmospherics of the First Violin Concerto. The Finale is robust and festive in the Russian style, as Prokofiev's finales frequently are, but at the same time entirely devoid of the pent-up fury of the finale of the earlier F minor sonata.

Program note by Matti Raekallio

The Sonata in D major, Op. 94, is an exceedingly bright and friendly piece, composed originally for flute and piano. In fact, the changes in the solo part are minimal, and there are none for the piano, the main difference being that the piece has more "bite" with the violin than with the flute. The violin produces a less easy sound - there is literally more tension, more resistance in it - and this is not a subjective statement, but simply a fact of physics, of the difference in sound production between the two instruments. Written is unshakeably classical sonata form (even to the repeat of the exposition), it is unashamely diatonic - almost as firmly rooted in tonic and dominant as anything written a century and a half before. Because of its double life (it was already being performed as a violin sonata less than a year after its flute premiere) the piece has had even greater exposure, and has become a familiar favorite.

Program note by Jean R. Dane

Sony Classical (SMK 64 534): Isaac Stern, violin; Alexander Zakin, piano
Ondine recording (ODE 807-2): Ilya Grubert, violin; Matti Raekallio, piano

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Created: August 12, 1997