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In the Five Melodies for Violin and Piano Op 35bis, Prokofiev exploits the spectrum of violin techniques as music rather than mere virtuosity. In the Elgar and Busoni sonatas the two instruments share motifs and melodies to form an integrated whole, whereas here the violin has the tunes while the piano accompanies. This derives from the music's origin as a wordless vocalise and is doubtless the explanation for the tunes' simplicity which Prokofiev does not obscure by the violin elaborations.

Prokofiev is instantly recognised as the composer and the textural clarity affords a rare opportunity to actually hear the inner workings of the music. With Prokofiev's symphonies, for example, only the practised score reader can follow the all-important but intricate counterpoint.

One of the qualities peculiar to Prokofiev's music, and which immediately identifies him, is a feeling of oriental music, not definable in terms of pentatonic scales or gongs and gamelans or any other specific Asian music-making. The piano accompaniment of the Five Melodies may be heard in that context [listen -- track 9, 0:00-1:28].

Listeners may experience further insight into all the music on this disc because the violin played here was made by the French craftsman J B Vuillaume and dates from 1856. The special characteristic of his violins is the richness of their low notes, sometimes mistaken for those of a viola.

The recording quality of this disc is clear and consistent and gives a convincing sense of proximity. The two E minor sonatas and the Five Melodies not only reveal important aspects of Elgar, Busoni and Prokofiev but of the twentieth century's first half, in which they lived and worked.

Copyright © 10 May 2006 George Balcombe, London UK


Twentieth Century Romantic Works for Violin and Piano

Ti-265 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 67'38" 2005 Sirius Music Inc

Gerald Itzkoff, violin; Philip Amalong, piano

Edward Elgar: Sonata for Violin and Piano Op 82; Ferrucio Busoni: Sonata for Violin and Piano in E minor Op 29; Sergei Prokofiev: Five Melodies for Violin and Piano Op 35bis


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