20th Century Classics
PROKOFIEV THE WAR SONATAS
Boris Giltburg, piano (Orchid Classics 100023)
The three greatest piano sonatas of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) were composed during World War II, when the Soviet Union waged a life-and-death struggle against Nazi Germany. The Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sonatas, or War Sonatas (Op 82 to 84), were written at the same time and share the common qualities of being brutally dissonant and percussive but tempered with a paradoxical lyricism and sentimentality. These diametrically opposites become clear when one considers that even temporary relief from the ever-looming spectre of death becomes a valued luxury.
Mortality and beauty sit uneasily in these masterpieces. The Sixth Sonata has a pulverising belligerence but its third movement is a slow waltz. The compact Seventh Sonata juxtaposes tolling bells with precipitous machine-gun fire, the toccata-like finale being its most famous three minutes. The Eighth Sonata is the longest and most subtle, with languorous bittersweet emotions being swept away by ruthless and unyielding hard reality.
Ironically, all three sonatas were written in the major keys. Russia-born Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg - first prize winner of the 2013 Queen Elizabeth International Piano Competition, who possesses a steel-clad technique allied with razor-keen intellect, is the ideal exponent of this trilogy of doom.
BORIS GILTBURG PLAYS RACHMANINOV'S PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1 WITH THE SINGAPORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONDUCTED BY NEEME JARVI
Where: Esplanade Concert Hall
When: Saturday, 7.30pm
Admission: $15 to $72, from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg)
This article was published on April 10 in The Straits Times.
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