What We're Listening To: Sergei Prokofiev's "Sonata for Solo Violin, Op 115"
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He was regarded as one of the major composers of the twentieth century, with masterpieces that transcended various genres. He is known for many popular works including the March from The Love for Three Oranges, the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and Peter and the Wolf. He wrote seven complete operas, seven symphonies, eight ballets, five piano concertos, two violin concertos and a violin sonata, a cello concerto, and nine piano sonatas.
Prokofiev, as a composer-pianist, achieved much of his notoriety through his dissonant and virtuosic works for his instrument. His reputation still stands as one of the “greatest figure(s) of contemporary music,” and that he has a true “gift, virtually unparalleled among 20th-century composers, for writing distinctively original diatonic melodies.”
Included below is a performance of his Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 115 performed by violinist Benjamin Beilman. This is a three-movement work that is completely unaccompanied – it is written in such a way that the melodies bounce back between the low and high registers of the violin, creating an effect that almost sounds as if the violin is accompanying itself. The first movement is an exciting Moderato, with soft lyrical melodies throughout. The second movement is a theme and variations, while the final movement ends very high energy.